Sherlock Holmes is one of the more over-saturated characters of the last few decades. The world-famous Victorian detective has been played by the likes of Benedict Cumberbatch, Robert Downey Jr and Ian McKellan, each putting their own spin on the character and situating them in various periods in his life, and in Cumberbatch’s case, English History. Now, Henry Cavill tries his hand as the occupant of 221B Baker Street, something that has already set Twitter ablaze. But wait… Enola Holmes isn’t about the male Holmes brother, indeed, not even Mycroft (Sam Claiflin). In this film, the protagonist is the little known younger sister in the Holmes family, Enola.
Yes, with much of the same sentiment that informed the creation of talked about “girl power” remakes like Ghostbusters (2016), Ocean’s 8 (2018) and others, Enola Holmes brings a popular franchise into an until now unexplored realm: the female perspective.
Young Enola (Millie Bobby Brown) lives alone with her eccentric mother (Helena Bonham Carter). Like her much older brother, we immediately see our protagonist as a whip smart budding detective, fuelled by a sense of adventure and oozing British literary wit. When her mother mysteriously disappears, Enola must put her gifts to good use, living up to her family name and embarking on her own mystery. As she herself says (often in a rather on the nose fashion): “the game is afoot”.
If I had to compare Enola Holmes to anything, it would be a watered down Fleabag. Throughout the film, Brown turns to the camera to deliver some witicism. Is it jarring? Oddly enough, not particularly. I would put that down however not to the quality of the writing per se, but the sheer charisma of the lead herself. As she proved in the Netflix hit Stranger Things, Brown is an acting force to be reckoned with. Surrounded by a cast who should theoretically act circles around her, she remarkably holds her own, and outshines everyone. Without Brown, Enola Holmes would be a lesser film for sure.
So what to make of the rest of the project? It’s perfectly fine. As a family feature, it holds up as a superior effort from a committed cast and solid direction. Familar genre trappings including the corniest of dialogue, plot conveniences galore and an immensely frustrating third act deus ex machina should be seen not as a fault of the film, but a by product of its genre and target audience. Enola Holmes is a family affair, and it revels in it.
The narrative, while oddly structured (it abandons the initial premise in favour of a bizarre mystery a third of the way through), is breezy and light. At just over two hours, the film whizzes and thrills in a way not too dissimilar to a good old fashioned blockbuster used to do. I for one had a thoroughly good time sitting back and enjoying (yet another) Netflix concoction in this year of closed cinemas.