When you mention ‘detective’, more often than not, the name of Sherlock Holmes comes into your mind, and rarely, Enola Holmes’. Having almost 120-years of head start is no joke, and it is unsurprising that when Enola Holmes is mentioned, most of us would scratch our heads. Which, of course, includes myself.
I was having a little trouble remembering that the great fictional detective has an elder brother, Mycroft Holmes, what more a teenage sister who is two decades his junior, and that was until Netflix dropped the trailer for Enola Holmes a month prior. Unlike Sherlock, whose list of actors representing him in film and television adaptations can be as lengthy as the trails of evidence that he usually scrutinizes in criminal cases, Millie Bobby Brown’s Enola Holmes is the first of her kind.
It doesn’t get any more meta than these, if first, you consider that Enola Holmes is based on the first book penned by Nancy Springer in a series of novels known as The Enola Holmes Mysteries. The book debuted back in 2006, and by that time, Sherlock Holmes already has a whole empire under his name. Likewise, in the plot, young Enola (Brown) has just started to get her feet wet in the complex world of evidence and investigation, while her elder brother, Sherlock (Henry Cavill) has already established himself as a celebrity-slash-detective in London.
And to add another layer into this meta-chaos, Nancy Springer and Netflix have been named as defendants, among other parties in an infringement-lawsuit filed by the estate of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, was, of course, the creator of Sherlock Holmes. The estate is akin to Sherlock, seeking ‘control’ over his younger sister, Enola (Springer and co.).
Brown co-produced Enola Holmes, and British-television director Harry Bradbeer was signed to direct the film. Alongside Brown and Cavill, Sam Claflin and Louis Partridge star as Enola’s eldest brother, Mycroft Holmes, and the Viscount Tewksbury, Marquess of (I-don’t-remember), respectively. Or was it Tewkesbury? Tekewsbury? Ticklish-berry? God, anyway.. Helena Bonham Carter fits into the final piece of the puzzle, playing Enola’s loving but peculiar mother, Eudoria Holmes.
The peculiarity of Eudoria is not just confined within herself, as it carries on to shape the character of her daughter, Enola, which, in turn, dictates the direction of the story. The peculiarity of Enola ultimately leads her to constantly breaking the fourth wall, and addressing the audience straight to their faces, which is a bizarre trait that is seldom seen in mystery or adventure films.
One does not need to inspect every last bit of the released trailer to pick up this habit of Enola’s, but what initially worried me was whether the crew will overuse the constant breaking of fourth wall up until the point of messing up the overall delivery of the movie. Like the plot of the film, Enola talking directly to you may appear dull or awkward at first, but as the story catches on and the communication evolves into brilliant eye contacts, you may soon realize that they actually constitute well to the movie’s overall theme, which I suspect you wouldn’t mind if Enola does it more often in the film.
Likewise, the narrative starts off a little tad juvenile and diluted, but matures and gains flavor in a rather rapid fashion towards the climax. Whether this was intentional or otherwise is out of my comprehension, but it certainly gives an impression of a movie that bites harder as it ages, which is the only direction of contrast that any moviegoer will accept.
As anticipated, the plot reports into work with plenty of cyphers and puzzles instilled, but nothing ostentatious or way more than the film can chew. They are fairly suitable for all ages, and I don’t think any age-group of the audience will find them dull or overly-challenging, except those who have set their eyesights too much on Cavill, and never on the plot. Which I advise that you don’t, because despite Cavill’s Sherlock being one of the greatest things to ever happen on-screen for Enola Holmes, there are still plenty other great things to discover across the film.
Like, how Enola sneaks around her grouchy brother, Mycroft, and the detestable finishing school principal Miss Harrison (Fiona Shaw), which often ends up with scenes that can be totally crackling. Or how she gazes into you without uttering a word, and yet you are able to register the message as “See, I told you so.” Yes, Enola Holmes is capable of being seriously hilarious at times, without being too obvious. It is not entirely surprising considering Bradbeer’s previous works on television, and the man definitely knows a thing or two regarding comedy as he goes to show us in Enola Holmes that there are cheekier ways to make people laugh.
Bradbeer managed to cement two strong points into the final third of the movie, with the first being infusing extra mystery and spookiness into the climax, and second, to establish a clear winner of the push-and-pull sibling rivalry, at least within the context of this film. Contrary to what I had believed, Millie Bobby Brown had no problem at all channeling sufficient energy into Enola Holmes, resulting into one of the most dependable characters to connect with the audience, uplift the scenes and sprinkle them with cheekiness and delight. Of course, these are immensely crucial during the first and second act of Enola Holmes, when the audience are just about to get familiarized with the characters, and there is not much engagement from the story just yet.
Granted, the way Enola escapes danger at multiple points of the story might not make the most sense in the actual world, but somehow I tend to be really forgiving towards Enola Holmes in this area, perhaps after considering how jovial and bright the entire movie has been. I don’t think that any sane audience would like to see the movie making a drastic tonal shift towards violence in order to make those scenes look ‘realistic’, so it is quite safe to say that I am not alone.
While I did mention that Henry Cavill’s Sherlock is one of the greatest things to ever happen in Enola Holmes, I might surprise you by saying that Cavill is still, not a great Sherlock Holmes. Yes, while it is impossible for him to showcase to you his PC building skills in a film laid down in the Victorian era, he is still an endlessly charming Sherlock, perhaps way more than you would expect. But this, is where my issue with the character lies.
To make things clear, I could really feel Cavill’s Sherlock connecting with and caring really well for the titular character. It is just that despite the crew’s best effort to dress him up in era-accurate, wardrobe pieces of a Victorian gentleman, they were still unable to hide his Superman physique underneath that threatens to tear apart any close-fitting clothing that it ever comes across. In regards to Sherlock Holmes, I am so used to imagining one who can effortlessly lift his pipe, and not his horse.
Enola Holmes is an exemplary case of a Netflix film which fulfills all the essential requirements to be an entertaining film, without being overly boisterous, brawny, or blood-tainted. Despite setting forth her self-actualization journey with a slightly pale start, Enola Holmes, both as a film and character, picks up swiftly and grows into a cheeky, mysterious and delightful adventure. Cavill’s Sherlock Holmes further adds irresistible charm and a dash of sweetness into this already bright escapade, which is understandable, but whether it is unnecessary or not, is up for you to decide —The Film Addict
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