Saying no to patriarchy in the non-Doyle tale: Enola Holmes

The new addition to the Holmes’ family, as well as the Netflix one. A few words about the latest mystery adventure.

From Stranger to Sherlock, Brown steps into the un-Eleven shoes of Enola (source)

Released on 23rd September, the intended film Enola Holmes for cinemas has been made available on Netflix amidst the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The film is based upon the spin-off series The Enola Holmes Mysteries written by Nancy Springer, whose first book The Case of the Missing Marquess forms the basis of the film’s plot. (Assuming it is hopeful to become a new franchise).

In the title role is Stranger Things‘ star Millie Bobby Brown, the actress refining her English tones, as the smart, sharp and stubborn Sherlock sibling. After her 16th birthday, Enola is determined to prove herself capable as a detective, after discovering her mother Eudoria (Helena Bonham Carter) has gone missing. Her elder siblings come to visit, including the eldest and pompous brother Mycroft (Sam Clafin) who is determined to make Enola into an educated and tamed woman, by enrolling her into a stuffy all-girls school led by Miss Harrison (Harry Potter alum and Killing Eve’s Fiona Shaw). However, as Enola narrowly escapes her stuffy brother Mycroft and the famed Sherlock (Henry Cavill), only to find herself involved in a conspiracy plot with handsome young Lord Tewksbury (Louis Partridge).

Adapting the formula of Sherlock, whilst creating a new sibling from the book series by Springer is certainly not easy to create, but the choice of Jack Thorne as screenwriter was an easy choice given his history of diverse work such as This Is England, Glue, His Dark Materials and Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. His choice of quick, witty and sharp dialogue is perfectly matched in the actors’ delivery, and the characterisation of Enola is certainly one of the better young female characters onscreen for a while. One great moment of the writing is Susie Wokoma’s suffragette Edith who debates Cavill’s Sherlock, calling him out on his privilege as a man in Victorian society and how women are still fighting to have the right to vote, let alone their own independence.

Wokoma serves a short-lived standout (source)

Yet with the overstretched plotting, it does certainly drag out the fun a little too far over its 123 minute running time, especially as it feels like 3 films at once as opposed to following one succinct journey. This path is not helped by the choppy editing of Bosman, in an filmmaker’s attempt to contain the inner monologues of Enola blended with lessons taught by her mother.

Directed by Harry Bradbeer in his motion picture debut, he is in different waters compared to his TV-led career. The director is most famous for winning an Emmy award directing Fleabag’s epic season 2 opener, as well lending his talents to series such as Killing Eve, Ramy, and Sugar Rush. It has to be said that whilst the charms of Fleabag is still freshly in mind, the influence of the fourth wall breaks by Enola seem like a strange choice in a tale that would be better narrated off-screen or played straight fourth wall unbroken. It’s certainly not all bad though, Bradbeer’s decision to capture the rebellious spirit of the Holmes’ family and the clever comedic timing is most effective in the earlier scenes.

Director Bradbeer and actor Bonham-Carter on set (source)

In all well-roundedness, the film is still a lot of fun to watch and it is a welcome change to cast some needed dust from the Sherlock adventures. Although it is partly childish, Enola’s story is of a girl wishing to be a lady, but one that is respected for her intellect and for her wish to explore adventure and not settle for the male gaze. This is particularly highlighted in the informal education given by Eudoria (Bonham Carter in a cameo role more than supporting). The cast is all on top form, such as Clafin’s take on the forthright and overbearing Mycroft, Cavill is charming and cool as Sherlock Holmes and the previously mentioned Wokoma is a welcome surprise in her short role as Edith, but the film is undoubtedly Brown’s, who gives a performance Eleven times removed from her sci-fi series breakthrough. Brown manages to tap in the potential of creating a heroine, and you can see the importance of the role to the actress all while having some needed cheer.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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