Did Sherlock Holmes had a sister? It is the first thought that came to my mind, and apparently, many who had followed the classic stories of Britain’s greatest fictional detective penned by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Directed by Harry Bradbeer, the person who helmed Fleabag (more on this later), Enola Holmes is the story of Sherlock’s sister, who did not exist, until Nancy Springer, an American fantasy author, published six stories, beginning from the year 2006 till 2010, that extended the Sherlock lore in exciting ways.
Though it didn’t bother Late Sir Doyle’s firm when her books came out, the Netflix release of the film, nonetheless, considering its inevitable popularity, compelled them to file a lawsuit against Mrs. Springer. However it shall fare, you have to thank her for writing the novels, for this incredibly heartwarming and much inspirational film is the outcome of her endeavors.
Played by Millie Bobby Brown – arguably the Emma Watson of this generation, she is perfect as Enola Holmes. Her charisma is of great length, and so is her range as an actor. As she races her bicycle in the opening scene of the film, often breaking the fourth-wall-breaking, you’re instantly delighted by her. You realize just how far she has come from playing Eleven, first in 2016, to an absolute movie star, thanks to the show’s phenomenal success.
As she begins to talk excitedly, in her swooningly British accent, you understand how perfect she is for the role (she is a legit British, btw).
“E N O L A means A L O N E, if spell backward,” she tells us.
There is great beauty to her character, and its a pleasure to see it unfold. Raised by her mother, an unorthodox, rebellious woman (played by the splendid Helena Bonham Carter), Enola is just as unconventional and erudite like her. “Paint your own picture, Enola,” she tells her. “Don’t be thrown off-course by other people – especially men.”
An enormous fire rages inside her mother towards female independence and equity, making Enola a remarkably distinct, however, the scum of a woman for society. We realize her place in the world when her mother goes missing on her 16th birthday, calling for Enola’s two elder brothers’ return. The most notable and famous Sherlock (played with an irresistible flair by Henry Cavill), and her eldest brother Mycroft (played by Sam Claflin with an equal adeptness).
The two exceedingly self-centered men fail to recognize their sister as she comes to receive them in a starkly unusual attire compared to how an elite British woman would look like. Opposed to how a brother would greet his young sister when meeting after a long time, her eldest immediately lambasts her appearance and upbringing. Sherlock, however, finds the middle ground.
Holmes’ contrasting characteristics create an intriguing string of scenes as we learn about Mycroft’s formalist attribute while Sherlock and Enola’s similarities, most precisely their lack of adherence to rules. The two brothers, however, pre-decided to split their roles in their excursion. While Sherlock would deal with his mother’s disappearance (his area of expertise!), Mycroft will take Enola’s care and the rearing she must be provided.
He admits her to a distinguished finishing school to ensure she becomes a woman the world would approve. Enola, however, feels disheartened by the motives of her brothers and for how little they genuinely care for her. As her mother would often tell her to forge her own path, Enola decides to go after her mother by herself while discarding her brother’s self-centered scheme.
As a kids’ movie, Enola Holmes is an early Christmas or a pre-Diwali treat. There is so much to love about the film, most notably the movie’s perpetually bright and snappy tone. The doodlish opening credits and Millie Bobbie Brown’s continuous fourth-wall-breaking chatter regales and promises a high-spirited adventure. The mood is further enhanced by Daniel Pemberton’s heartening score, which recalls some of the best family entertainers you have experienced.
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There is barely a false note you can visually pick in the film that doesn’t make your eyes pop out. The set-pieces and color palette is perfectly British-esque, and you will swoon if you happen to be a lover of period dramas. This is not to say the film only cuts the dash. The screenplay qualifies the standards for a Holmes movie. It is not Sherlock’s adventure, though he does have a fair say in the film’s mystery, which is always a joy to watch. The film remains an Enola Holmes story in its entirety, and it is mostly gratifying.
The film has an energized pacing, similar to its protagonist, which keeps your adrenaline pumping. The first act is remarkably brilliant. An excellent sub-plot involves saving a young Lord (a wonderful Louis Patridge) from an unidentified malefactor. And it is terrific for its unpredictability, which is quite necessary for a Holmes movie. The main story, however, that involves finding Enola’s mother, is formulaic and pretty disappointing.
Long before the climax, you figure out the reason for her disappearance, and it is disappointing because it only teases a more prominent role for future films, while wasting a great performer in the form of Helena Bonham Carter. It is strictly a cameo appearance, and even though she fits the character, I wished to know more about her and to have a meatier storyline.
Besides, when it comes to having intelligent, sherlocky thrills, Enola Holmes never delivers. There are a few scenes, for sure, where Cavill captivatingly breaks down certain events, but there is none for Bobbie Brown. Her ingenuity is mostly physical, and there is a lot of luck involved in her triumphs.
The film also borrows heavily from Fleabag, one of Mr. Bradbeer’s previous projects. Enola’s fourth-wall-breaking characteristic is a direct rip off, which strips away her own individuality. I like it when the good stuff is borrowed from other art, but the informal way of directly addressing the viewer that made Fleabag so original doesn’t always work in Enola Holmes.
The first hour had me irritated many times by it, as I wanted Enola to grow on me as she is. But each time she gave me that direct addresal, I could only think of Waller-Bridge, which is quite distracting. Fortunately, the second half flows better as there are solid dramatic scenes that have minimal room for zestful emotions. And it is the part I really liked from the perspective of repeat viewings.
The brother-sister chemistry among the actors is superb, and I loved the emotional undercurrents. It is during these moments when Enola truly becomes a character to relate with and feel motivated by, particularly for its target audience, where Disney’s Mulan colossally failed to deliver.
Ultimately, it is a genuinely uplifting tale of an uncompromising and fairly clever young woman, which entertains in spades, even though at times in a formulaic manner. It is very well-directed, has a 100% family-friendly tone, and scores uniformly excellent performances, mainly the movie star turn in Millie Bobby Brown. After a half-a-year long of dealing with the abstruse sadness of COVID-19 isolation, this is the best film to experience at home. See it with your whole family – precisely your brothers and sisters.
Rating: 3.5 / 5
Enola Holmes is streaming on Netflix. Share your opinion below in the comments section.