Sherlock Holmes is the world’s most famous detective. But did you know that he had a little sister named Enola Holmes who was a pretty good detective too? Me neither, because I’m pretty sure she didn’t exist until Nancy Springer created her for her series of books. This movie is based on the first book in the series, The Case of the Missing Marquess.
Enola (Millie Bobby Brown) is 16 years old when her mother (the always eccentric Helena Bonham Carter) disappears. Her two older brothers, Sherlock (Henry Cavill) and Mycroft (Sam Clafin) want to send her to boarding school, but she wants to find her missing mom (if you are wondering how someone other than Sir Arthur Conan Doyle can write a book/movie with Sherlock Holmes and many other characters from those stories, the character have passed into the public domain.) Along with that mystery, she also crosses paths with a runaway noble person, and that is where the majority of the plot takes her.
We are introduced to Enola though a breezy voiceover opening sequence that sets the stage and establishes the light tone of the movie. Millie Bobby Brown is the best part of the film, which is a good thing, since she carries the vast majority of the screen time. She frequently breaks the fourth wall and provides the audience with narration in the middle of a scene. I usually find this technique annoying as it tends to rip me out of the story and remind me that we know the narrator won’t die, but Brown has so much charisma that it works here. Brown plays the character with a knowing wink (literally in many cases) and is clearly having fun with the role. Her disguise negotiation technique is repeated just enough to make a fun pattern. She also gets to display a fair amount of physicality, as Enola often has to rely on her fists as well as her brain. I could see Brown taking on more action roles in the future.
Less effective is the overuse of flashbacks intercut with the action. They attempt to show us how Enola got her various skills, but I found them distracting and not really necessary. A fair amount of these traits can be accepted simply by recognizing she is the younger sister of Sherlock Holmes. Even worse, many of the flashbacks were reused, which seemed odd. The movie isn’t long enough to forget something we saw.
I tend to like Henry Cavill in other films, but his Sherlock Holmes is quite subdued. While the movie is set in the early part of his career, this version doesn’t seem to have any of the hallmarks of the character. Holmes displays a little unexpected warmth and humor, but is otherwise a blank slate. Clafin’s Mycroft in contrast, is much more interesting.
In some ways, the plot seemed to meander a bit. While the side mystery picked up steam and really allowed Enola to flex her detective muscles, the search for her mother plot ended up being kind of a dud. In spite of that, Enola Holmes is a fun, fresh take on the Sherlock Holmes mystery genre buoyed by an excellent performance by Millie Bobby Brown. If you have Netflix, it is worth checking out, but I wouldn’t recommend subscribing just to see it.
My rating = 7.75/10
ENOLA HOLMES is now available on Netflix.