When Enola Holmes (Millie Bobby Brown) – Sherlock’s teen sister – discovers that her mother (Helena Bonham Carter) has vanished in the night, she sets off to find her. Journeying to London, she puts her unconventional education to the test as searches for her mother while trying to stay one step ahead of her older brothers and unravelling a dangerous conspiracy involving a young lord (Louis Partridge).
Sherlock Holmes conjures images of a stuffy Victorian London filled with expository monologues, pipe smoke, and male heroes saving damsels in distress. But now the classic detective story gets a fresh, female face for a young audience in Netflix’s new film, Enola Holmes. Based on a series of young adult novels by Nancy Springer, the mystery thriller introduces viewers to Sherlock’s young sister, a precocious child genius with ideas of becoming a super sleuth in her own right. The film undoubtedly has its charms, especially for teenage viewers, thanks in no small part to an excellent lead performance and a unique visual direction.
Enola Holmes has an energetic direction that few other classic mystery films have attempted in the past. It runs close to the stylistic, action-packed Sherlock Holmes Guy Ritchie films, which also featured titles cards and protagonist narration. Director Harry Bradbeer takes this one step further though, using Scrabble and journal entries, as well as rapid flashback cuts, to bring us into Enola’s enigmatic mind. At just over two hours’ long, the film could have slowed down a lot while we pondered over the clues, but the directorial style gives Enola Holmes a pace that equalises the long runtime.
Where Enola Holmes loses its feet is in a messy plot. Mystery films rarely stray away from investigating a single case so that viewers can keep up with developments. This film just tries to do too much. While searching for her mother, Enola’s focus is diverted by a young lord escaping an assassination attempt. This splits the plot down the middle, with narrative around Enola’s mother disappearing and her links to the suffragettes abandoned about halfway through. This is bizarre as it effectively makes the first half of the film redundant and takes away from it may have otherwise been an emotionally charged finale. Instead, Enola and her mother reuniting seems like an afterthought. The classics, from Agatha Christie adaptations to other Sherlock Holmes films, stick to a single storyline; Enola Holmes tries its hand at two simultaneously and fails.
The film offers a feast of British talent, and you can see that each cast member has a lot of fun in their role. Sam Claflin is note-perfect as the moustachioed, pompous Mycroft, Helena Bonham Carter brings wild-haired gravitas to her (shamefully low) screen time, and Susan Wokoma steals scenes as a jiu-jitsu master/team room owner. Henry Cavill is an unfamiliar Sherlock, warmer than we are used to, and it’s a tone change that he fails to own. But the undoubted star of Enola Holmes is, of course, Millie Bobby Brown as Enola. She is mischievous and fun, a very likeable protagonist. Her winks and asides to the viewer add pantomime of her performance, which may seem tiresome or cringy for older viewers but is ideal for a young adult audience.
Enola Holmes has something for viewers of all ages; action, mystery, humour, and excitement. If you can look past the overly contrived story, you’ll enjoy this pacey adaptation.
Enola Holmes is a warm, fresh slant on a familiar story, even if the execution is a little confusing and predictable. Good fun without pushing any boundaries. 6/10.