“The Game is afoot!”, in Netflix’s Enola Holmes, a Sherlockian-adventure with a youthful feminine twist, and there is nothing Elementary about it! Now that I’ve got the catch phrases out of the way….
Directed by Harry Bradbeer (Fleabag) and written by Jack Thorne ( 2017’s Wonder, HBO’s His Dark Materials, and The Aeronauts), this film adaptation based on Nancy Springer’s series about Enola Holmes, a sprightly young detective following in her brother’s, the famed Sherlock Holmes, footsteps and who forges her own identity as a detective in her own right as she tries to find her missing mother and unravel the mystery surrounding a young runaway nobleman.
As she chases clues and solves crimes, she also tries to unravel the world around her as she comes of age in 1884 England, as the world begins to change and Enola is caught between the expectations of her stuffy brother and ward Mycroft, for her to become a poised and respectable lady and her desire to be who she wants to be in the turn of the century. I’ve found myself caught between this world and others as well. The film is a mixed bag, but overall it’s an enjoyable family mystery with a good message.
I’ve been privy to multiple iterations and adaptations of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes, from Downey Jr. to Cumberbatch, and in this film, the great detective takes the backseat to his scrappy teenage sister.
The film is Auspiciously led by Stranger Things’, Millie Bobby Brown. Brown is effervescent and charming as Enola, as she tries to piece together the mystery of her missing mother, played by the chameleon, . Brown is personable and really makes this role come alive. Millie Bobby Brown’s boisterous Enola is also surrounded by an excellent ensemble.
From Superman to Sherlock, Henry Cavill takes on yet another iconic role, but it leaves me wanting more. It was hard not to compare him to the others that came before him, especially when Robert Downey jr. and Benedict Cumberbatch bring so much personality to their respective roles on their respective mediums. Henry Cavill’s Sherlock was uncharacteristically uncharacteristic. Cavill felt muted. I wanted more from him, and maybe we’ll have the opportunity to get that if this becomes a franchise.
Sam Claflin shines as the stuffy aristocrat, Mycroft Holmes, the eldest of the Holmes siblings, as Enola’s primary opposition as he seeks to turn Enola into a proper and respectable young woman ready to be wed. He wants her to unlearn her inherently feminist ideals and boyish idiosyncrasies.
The story is pretty straightforward but can feel overwhelming due to its fast spacing. The opening was chaotic editing wise. The film is fast paced with quick cuts and even quicker sequences, that made it hard for me to latch on to the story and connect.
In the same vein as Michaela Coel’s Chewing Gum or Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s Fleabag, Enola breaks the fourth wall and speaks to the camera, offering us an unfiltered glimpse into her world and how she sees it. It works when it does, and it falls flat when it doesn’t. There are some scenes that are made exponentially better by it while others the narration is less than memorable. Enola makes not-so-Sherlockian observations, not really commenting on details we miss, but highlighting things why already know. She spends most of the film explaining events and propinquities that are currently unfolding as we watch and it does nothing to enhance the experience, story, or character. We do not learn any new information most of the time, and it takes away from the opportunity to be surprised by revelations. The fourth wall break undermines the action and story during most instances of the film. I found my favorite moments to be the ones where Enola looks at the camera without saying a word, her silence speaks volumes. But I also found that her speaking to an unnamed audience, represents how alone she is and how isolated she feels, so that may be the point, and if it is, it is wonderful.
The first act of the film focuses on Enola’s missing mother. But that suddenly takes the backseat to Enola’s relationship with coiffed runaway, the Viscount Tewkesbury, Marquess of Basilwether (Gesundheit), played by Louis Partridge (Paddington 2) , as she struggles to focus on her mother and not get attached to this mysterious and damsel-in-distress, Tewkesbury. Their relationship is fun to watch on screen as they stumble into the world together, unsure how to figure out the puzzle of it all.
Verdict: 3.2 out of 5
The film’s talented cast and crew, unfortunately casts a daunting shadow over the whole project and leaves high expectations with a moderate payoff. The film doesn’t entirely miss its mark though. There are enough moments that make the film dazzle, such as its charismatic style, rhythmic dialogue, and with a talented cast that offers much needed levity that allows us to breathe and catch up with the fast moving film. Enola is about individuality and identity. It’s about that refusal to roll over and conform. I think as a finished product the film has a lot of problems, but it still manages to inspire, inform, and entertain. It’s a solid family film with some heart to hold you over in a time where heart is what is needed the most.