Title: Enola Holmes
Describe This Movie In One Bowling For Soup Lyric:
BFS: I got beat up by a girl with the right hook/Straight out of Rocky/Tyson’s got nothing/Or maybe she got lucky
Brief Plot Synopsis: Teenage girl improbably gets along well with her mother.
Rating Using Random Objects Relevant To The Film: 3.5 Hounds of the Baskervilles out of 5.
Tagline: “Mystery runs in the family.”
Better Tagline: “Five pounds must be a lot of money.”
Not So Brief Plot Synopsis: Enola Holmes (Millie Bobby Brown) lives an unconventionally liberated life with her mother Eudoria (Helena Bonham Carter). But when mom goes missing, Enola goes against the wishes of her distant older brothers Mycroft (Sam Claflin) and Sherlock (Henry Cavill) to find her. Then there’s the matter of the missing Lord Tewksbury (Louis Partridge). Huh, that sounds like a Sherlock Holmes story.
“Critical” Analysis: We haven’t seen Millie Bobby Brown much outside of Stranger Things and Godzilla: King of the Monsters, where she wasn’t asked to do a hell of a lot more than stare Kubrickianly or gape in awe, respectively. Enola Holmes is her first real showcase, and she doesn’t disappoint.
Based on the Nancy Springer series of young adult novels, Enola Holmes is almost as much a fantasy movie as it is a mystery. The film leans hard into the idea that change is in the air; that the turn of the century will usher in an era of real reform. This is, of course, at odds with reality as well as the fin de siècle thinking of the time. Meanwhile, the societal proscriptions on women are largely played for laughs instead of, you know, as the soul-crushing tactics of oppression they actually were.
This would be a bigger issue if the movie itself, and everyone involved, weren’t so goddamned charming. Once director Harry Bradbeer (Killing Eve) ditches some of the 4th wall breaks and the obvious Guy Ritchie influences (who knew jujutsu was so popular among consulting detectives?) and invests fully in the title character, things really take flight.
Enola is about as far from the timid Eleven as you could get, and Brown clearly relishes the opportunity to show her action chops by fighting, playing (indoor) tennis, and fighting some more. Truly, there’s a lot more fisticuffs than one might assume the typical Victorian young lady was forced to endure. But then, that’s kind of the point.
Like the source material, Enola Holmes plays heavily to its target demographic. Bradbeer improves upon it somewhat by aging Enola up to give us a more convincing teen romance and make her pain at Mycroft’s dismissive cruelty hit that much harder. It doesn’t hurt that Brown is surrounded by actors having almost as good a time as she is.
Unlike the sociopathic and/or emotionally aloof Sherlocks of yore, Cavill is only nominally distant, recognizing his sister’s brains and independence and quickly becoming an ally. Mycroft, on the other hand, may possess a prodigious intellect, but his upper class inertia and elitism always keep him a step behind. Even so, after overt villain roles in The Nightingale and Charlie’s Angels, Claflin probably welcome the opportunity to play a garden variety jackass.
Bonham Carter is, as always, a presence when onscreen, but is largely absent. Burn Gorman is also along to Gorman it up as a sinister dude gunning for Tewksbury.
And in keeping with the generally buoyant atmosphere, Victorian London is remarkably free of horse dung and Rippers. It’s unclear how much of this cleanliness is cinematographer Giles Nuttgens’ (Hell or High Water) doing, but the final wide shot of a crystal blue Square Mile is … well, it’s something.
Riding on Millie Bobby Brown’s capable shoulders, Enola Holmes is just the right mixture of action, humor, and mystery to distract us — albeit briefly — from unpleasant reality. If we’re lucky, maybe those promised reforms will become a reality yet.
Enola Holmes is now streaming on Netflix.