While detective Sherlock Holmes is a super-sleuth character whom audiences are all-too familiar with, his younger sister Enola Holmes is one whose name most people do not recognize. In the new Netflix original directed by Harry Bradbeer “Enola Holmes,” however, Sherlock, played by Henry Cavill, pales in comparison to Enola, who is portrayed by Millie Bobby Brown. Holmes dominates the screen with her charisma and stubborn determination, which allows her to reject conforming to society — a characteristic which drives the movie forward, and which one can’t help but find endearing in the more conservative setting of the film.
“Enola Holmes,” as the title suggests, follows 16-year-old Enola Holmes, who leaves her home for the first time in her life to venture into the bustling city of London, in order to find her missing mother Eudoria Holmes — played by Helena Bonham Carter. However, her two brothers Mycroft, played by Sam Claflin, and Sherlock don’t necessarily help — rather, they actually serve to complicate the plot further. Mycroft attempts to force Enola into a boarding school for young girls that condemns Enola’s unsubmissive behavior, and Sherlock, taking pity on Enola, reluctantly agrees and attempts to solve their mother’s disappearance himself. Alongside these challenges in the process of unraveling her mother’s whereabouts, Enola becomes entangled in a different mystery altogether — one involving another runaway by the name of Lord Tewkesbury, played by Louis Patridge.
With such a star-studded cast, “Enola Holmes” without a doubt delivered in terms of performances, one of the biggest strengths of the film. However, the standout of the cast was Brown, who brought the entire film together. As the titular character taking up almost all of the screen time, it was ultimately up to Brown to carry the film — and she certainly delivered. With such a strong-willed lead, there was a large possibility of this film going south — Holmes had plenty of space to come off as annoying, reckless and unlikeable in general, but Brown’s performance managed to keep Holmes’ stubbornness and free spirit charming and entertaining. She even supported this charm by — very elegantly — breaking the fourth wall a numerous amount of times.
Holmes’ character, Brown’s performance aside, was also one which combined the Sherlock Holmes trope with that of the rebellious teenager, a very interesting and fresh take on classic ideas — Holmes embodies a talkative and intelligent, but also sheltered and defiant young female unfamiliar in a world dominated by men. This also lends itself to feminist commentary which, despite the film taking place in late 1800’s England, is still applicible today. The stark difference between her character in the show “Stranger Things” — Brown’s most well-known role — and Enola Holmes shows that Brown has what it takes to command the screen in a broad range of roles.
In addition to a strong cast, “Enola Holmes” also boasts beautiful cinematography and visual appeal as one of its strong suits. The film used its location in England to its advantage, showing off both green pastures and alluring architecture of the city in the background. The film also uses costumes to its advantage, as a tool to advance the plot as Enola switches from disguising as a boy in dirty plain clothes, to dressing as a woman in vibrant dresses. All of the beautiful scenery, costumes and cinematography, paired with a whimsical soundtrack that adds more to every scene, make “Enola Holmes” a visually appealing film to watch.
However, despite the strength of Enola’s character and the beautifully shot visual appeal, the film does become almost exhausting at a certain point, as the audience must try to keep up with an overstuffed plotline filled with tropes and commentary everyone is already all too familiar with. While the main plot of the movie begins as an intriguing mystery, it slowly develops into a romance — an extremely overused trope — and commentary on female oppression, which despite sending a strong message, is a theme which has been culturally exhausted by many other films. This kind of plot development that deviates from the original mystery and hassles to complete other storylines and provide feminist commentary already seen before, sets the film up to fall flat at the end.
“Enola Holmes,” while an interesting concept following the lesser-known sibling of an iconic Hollywood figure, has shaky execution that follows a wandering and tiresome plotline. However, this is all forgivable, maybe even forgettable, due to Brown’s performance, which still allows the film to stand tall and feel fresh, as well as the beautiful visual and audio cinematography and solid performances from the rest of its cast. “Enola Holmes” is a great family-friendly mystery movie easily enjoyable for many, available on Netflix for those with subscriptions to watch.