Enola Holmes: Love It or Hate It?

LOVE it, and here’s why…

The character of Sherlock Holmes has been seen countless times on our screens, whether this be through television or film adaptation, and with this there is a string of big named actors who have taken up the role. This was until the introduction of intrepid teenager Enola Holmes, the sister to Sherlock and Mycroft, played by Stranger Things star Millie Bobby Brown.

Based on the young adult novels written by Nancy Springer, the curious and self-assured titular character Enola takes audiences on a journey from the picturesque British countryside landscape into the depths of Victorian London, all in an attempt to find her mother who has ironically left her alone (that’s Enola spelt backwards).

Director Harry Bradbeer incorporates audiences by breaking the fourth wall, allowing characters to communicate directly through the screen. Similar to what he used on Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s Fleabag, this method triumphantly keeps an element of light comedy and what I can only describe as female sass. In addition to this, screenplay writer Jack Thorne, as well as Brown herself who was one of the producers, have created a refreshing take on the ‘Holmes’ name. 

Right from the start, the unconventional relationship between mother and daughter is established, with the brilliant Helena Bonham Carter portraying Enola’s beloved yet nontraditional mother. To the audience she becomes familiar as ‘mother’, even though her name Eudoria is mentioned. This theme of familial relationships is created through frequent flashbacks to Enola’s childhood as she recalls the many lessons that her mother taught her about survival and curiosity. This creates a completely unusual yet believable dynamic between mother and daughter to which you cannot help but smile along at the opening scenes that establish this relationship.

It is then her mother’s mysterious disappearance that is the catalyst for the whole film, which throws the two older brothers Sherlock (Henry Cavill) and Mycroft (Sam Claflin) into the mix for a long overdue and slightly tense family reunion. The casting of both Cavill and Claflin is superb, with audiences easily able to believe that there is a familial relation due to them looking quite similar. Yet they do not outshine Brown, only compliment and enhance her ability as a young actor. The portrayal of Sherlock in particular is a refreshing alternative to the aloof and isolated characters portrayed in other projects. Cavill’s Sherlock, to put it simply, is rather nice to his younger sibling, perhaps due to the traits of himself he sees in her. Although they remain independent from one another throughout most of the film, the fondness they have for one another is clear and enjoyable to see.

This is a complete contrast to the relationship Enola has with the stubborn and slightly villainous Mycroft, who wants to dominate tradition and turn her into a proper young ‘lady’. It is this dynamic that allows the film to be somewhat guided by a theme of feminism with the young protagonist defying stereotypes. Rebelling against Mycroft and choosing instead to dress as a boy and head to London, Enola is a spearhead for young feminists. 

She is able to use her femininity to ‘blend in’ whilst in the city, dressing in the finest women’s frocks and accessories to which she feels is ‘unexpected’ for her nature. This contrast between the stereotypical feminine character and the independent, strong-willed, feisty girl who can use martial arts and communicate through complicated anagrams and code, are thrown together to form Enola Holmes. They become an important message to the young audience that the film will have undoubtedly attracted, and is a welcome difference to many portrayals of Victorian London seen on screens. It allows Enola to become more of a ‘Disney Channel’-esque character and makes me think of characters such as Kim Possible who I spent an embarrassingly large portion of my childhood pretending to be, because she was the ‘coolest’ female character on telly, and possessed skills that only male spies such as James Bond seemed to have. I could definitely see Enola being a firm favourite and inspirational character to all young children, regardless of gender, allowing their imaginations to run wild pretending they too can solve the worlds greatest mysteries.

Despite not being explained in detail, there are also multiple connections to a ‘reform bill’, and when in Limehouse Lane, Enola stumbles across a Suffragette manifesto and plans for militant action, which all become connected at the end of the film. Although not made blatantly obvious, the inclusion of Suffragette history is enjoyable and pressures the audience to remain active whilst watching, encouraging them to solve the mystery alongside Enola, which of course is aided by the conversational monologues delivered straight down the camera. 

It is the charms and top-notch acting from Millie Bobby Brown that I feel allow the film to thrive. Whilst the ‘mystery’ element is far from the intense and complex narratives seen in the BBCs Sherlock, that is precisely the point. Instead the story focuses more on a young female detective finding her own feet in the world and who actually ends up outsmarting her famous elder brothers, a tough lesson that children should never be underestimated.

The quintessentially British elements and nod to British female history are also a welcome addition, without being too heavy and complicating the plot. One slight criticism would have to be that the character of Viscount Tewksbury (Louis Partridge) who leads Enola on a different path altogether, means the mission to find her mother Eudoria is slightly lost. There are also hints of a romantic relationship between the two young female and male characters, which I feel personally was a tad cliche, so was glad that it did not develop to anything more than fondness. These slight criticisms however are not disastrous and it only enhanced the fact more that, without her mother, Enola is definitely not alone

Overall, this female driven narrative is easy to watch and enjoyable throughout, with a satisfying and wholesome ending, something I personally look for in films. I can definitely see multiple sequels on the horizon and will definitely be tuning in for the next adventure of Enola Holmes

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