Sometimes, you can just sense a franchise being born. Often, that feeling is one of indifference or resignation, since it’s among the least creative things that Hollywood can do. On occasion, however, the spark of a fun new character is enough to pique your interest and make subsequent adventures something to look forward to. Netflix’s Enola Holmes, hitting the streaming giant today, is one such example of this. On the surface, following Sherlock Holmes’ teenage sister around shouldn’t engender this kind of excitement, but the execution of the character is so delightful, it’s hard to feel any other way. Frankly, the Holmes name hasn’t been attached to something this fun in some time.
The film is an adventure, putting a teen angle on an iconic family of literary characters. Set in England, circa 1884, when change was in the air, teen Enola Holmes (Millie Bobby Brown) is about to celebrate her sixteenth birthday. However, when she wakes up, she can’t find her mother, Mrs. Holmes (Helena Bonham Carter). It would seem that she has disappeared, leaving behind a variety of gifts but no indication about where she is, let alone why she’s left. Close with her mother, Enola is at a loss, though her immediate concern is dealing with her brothers, Sherlock Holmes (Henry Cavill) and Mycroft Holmes (Sam Claflin). Neither have taken much interest in her and her wilder ways to date, with the former seeming indifferent and the latter expressing disdain. Now, they see an opportunity to send her to a finishing school and fix her up, but Enola will have none of that, instead slipping away from them to search for her mother. Quickly, she gets involved in England’s political conspiracies, including one involving a young runaway Lord (Louis Partridge) who could be the key to change. As Enola develops keen detective skills and evades her sleuth brother, it becomes clear that a lot is at stake. Harry Bradbeer directs a screenplay by Jack Thorne, based on Nancy Springer’s book. Supporting players include Adeel Akhtar, Fiona Shaw, and more. Daniel Pemberton composed the score, while the cinematography is by Giles Nuttgens.
There’s a charm on display here, as well as a sense of fun, that really makes all of the difference. A lot of that is due to Millie Bobby Brown, who makes Enola an absolute spark plug. She’s the single best part of the movie, able to elevate it past some flaws (which we’ll get to in a moment, below). Watching her put a unique stamp on this character is a pleasure. It’s fair to wonder if Brown is largely why this works, but however the combination is between her, Jack Thorne’s script, Harry Bradbeer’s direction, and the novel by Nancy Springer, Brown is at least a big reason. If there are truly more adventures with her brewing, it’ll be a good time.
Enola Holmes is not without issues, mainly in terms of the other Holmes characters. Helena Bonham Carter is solid as Mrs. Holmes, but the duo of Henry Cavill as Sherlock Holmes and Sam Claflin as Mycroft Holmes leave something to be desired. The former is more of an issue than the latter, as Claflin is saddled with a one-note character. Cavill, on the other hand, has an iconic part to play, but plays it too down the middle to leave an impression. Frankly, Millie Bobby Brown runs circles around them all. Bradbeer and Thorne rightly see Enola as the focal point, but whenever the Holmes men are on the screen, things grind to a halt.
Dropping today on Netflix, Enola Holmes is a good bit of fun. Millie Bobby Brown fans will be delighted, while open minded Sherlock Holmes fans will find this to be an interesting new direction for the material. Holmes as a supporting player to his kid sister? Considering how this turned out, it’s an angle that should definitely be explored more in cinematic efforts to come…
Be sure to check out Enola Holmes, available right now on Netflix!
(Photos courtesy of Netflix)