“Enola Holmes” Movie Review


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     After breaking out during the first three seasons of Netflix’s “Stranger Things”, it was only a matter of time before Millie Bobby Brown would elevate her star power by launching a franchise of her own.  Boasting a producer credit in addition to the leading role, the 16 year old Brown clearly establishes herself as a power house with her turn in “Enola Holmes”, a story chronicling the origins of Sherlock Holmes’ teenage sister as she begins to follow in the foot steps of her famous sibling.  Directed by television vet Harry Bradbeer, working from a script by Jack Thorne based on the book by Nancy Springer, the film is carried, almost solely, by Brown’s energetic performance, as she regularly breaks the fourth wall and ensures the audience is with her every step of the way.

     We are informed in a prologue of the early happenings within the Holmes family, as the older brothers, Mycroft (Sam Clafin) and Sherlock (Henry Cavill), long ago reached their adult years and have left the family home to chase their respective careers.  And with their father having passed away, this leaves their mother, Eudoria (Helena Bonham Carter), to raise Enola on her own.  A task she clearly relishes in, with the younger Holmes being educated early on through a vast of array of books contained in the family library, along with regular lessons in the use of martial arts and weapons.  Mom vehemently believes her daughter will grow to become her two sons equal in every way.  Something this film is clearly out to prove.

     And just when Enola seems ready for the next step, Eudoria suddenly vanishes without a trace, which brings Mycroft and Sherlock back into the picture in order to help find their mother and care for their younger sister.  And because they haven’t seen Enola since she was a young child, the now capable teen isn’t recognizable in their initial meeting, as Mycroft, who has taken Enola has his ward, sees nothing more than a young girl who needs only to be sent on a path to being a good wife for her future husband.  As such, Enola is sent unwillingly to a finishing school, suddenly in the presence of girls her age of whom she shares nothing in common.  Unbeknownst to her brothers, this was not the way her mom raised her.

     It only takes a few scenes to realize Enola will soon plot her escape, and when she does so with the help of an acquaintance, Tewkesbury (Louis Partridge), of whom she met during her first attempt to find her mother, the adventure begins as she sets off to London armed with the pedigree of one of the world’s greatest detectives and a knack for finding trouble.  Much of which centers around her initial foray with Tewkesbury, who is being hunted as part of a family conspiracy Enola soon finds herself embroiled in.  As much as she is focused on finding Eudoria, the young detective can’t seem to shake the mounting obstacles in front of her, as she sees no choice but to uncover the danger surrounding Tewkesbury.

     All the while, Mycroft continues to ensure Elona will face difficulty in avoiding the authorities charged with bringing her home, a task the reserved Sherlock clearly does not support.  All of this leads to a third act where the main players ultimately converge, but the center of attention always remains on the feisty Enola as she grows before our eyes into the young woman her mother had envisioned from birth.

     Now is all of this entertaining? Of course.  But the film never sets itself apart from the many detective films depicting the period.  It feels like the only difference is watching Brown as the lead character, as she maneuvers through many of the same beats as the various actors who have portrayed Sherlock over the years.  And if the sole purpose here is to show us that women can do it too, then mission accomplished.  But for some reason, you watch “Enola Holmes” and feel as though there should’ve been something more to the character.  

     Sure, she was able to outwit Mycroft several times over, and thus defeat his misogynic attitude towards women, but aside from unconvincingly holding her own in several fight sequences (apparently she’s been studying Jujitsu for years), what exactly separates her character from that of a man?  Rather than utilize ingenuity and intuition, she merely imitates  the bad habits of men.  You’d think the screenwriters would’ve have ensured Elona brought something else to the table other than the fact she is as capable as her older brothers are. 

     You always have the feeling she is falling into these circumstances and simply dealing with them, rather than viewing her options and meticulously choosing the best way to proceed.  It’s a crucial element that appears to be missing along with her mother.  And as such, we end up with a film that benefits greatly from Brown’s stellar performance, but stops short of allowing the character to take off in a manner where we would ask to see more of her.  No doubt, she will someday be as good as Sherlock, but as far as we know, the skill set will be the same, meaning you’d want either one of them working on your case.  But then again, perhaps that’s exactly what the filmmakers set out to do.  GRADE: B