With more than 250 adaptations made in the universe of Sherlock Holmes, ever since inception, it is easy to say that he is one of the most interesting characters to ever exist. So it’s rather unfortunate that Enola Holmes, with such an intriguing premise is hardly intriguing itself.
Adapted from “The Enola Holmes Mysteries”, a series of novels by Nancy Springer, the film follows the journey of Enola Holmes (Millie Bobby Brown). She is the fourth-wall-breaking younger sister of Sherlock (Henry Cavill) and Mycroft Holmes (Sam Claflin). The Holmes brothers left their sister with their mother, Eudoria Holmes (Helena Bonham Carter) after the death of their father.
Eudoria is a strong and fiercely independent woman who is a revolutionary feminist in the late 1800s. She teaches Enola history, science, martial arts instead of other “ladylike” activities like knitting, embroidery etc.
On her 16th birthday, Enola finds that her mother is missing and that she herself is now a ward of the orthodox, chauvinist, high ranking government official, Mycroft Holmes, who plans on sending her to a boarding school for her to be educated to become a “young lady”.
Naturally, Enola embarks on a quest to find her mother. On her way, she meets Viscount Tewkesbury (Frances De La Tour), a young member of the British Royalty who has also run away from his home.
Millie Bobby Brown is excellent as Enola Holmes. She has the fast-talking wit that is expected from someone from the Holmes family. Brown’s charm allows her to breeze through most of the film. But unfortunately, she falls short while breaking the fourth wall.
After Superman, Henry Cavill is once again playing one of the most celebrated characters of all time. Surprisingly, he is outstanding. He is very different from the recent iterations of Sherlock in movies and TV. He is hardly as obviously eccentric as Robert Downey Jr.’s portrayal or as arrogant as Bennedict Cumberbatch. He gives a restrained but captivating performance that is also quite unique.
Sam Claflin as Mycroft Holmes is the clear cut authority figure we are supposed to root against. He has been given no nuance or understanding. Claflin did best with what one could with such a thinly written character.
The concept of creating a teenage sister for Sherlock Holmes who solves mysteries and fights societal norms is definitely interesting, empowering and one of the better ideas in the young adult genre. It not only provides teenage girls with an admirable role model to look up to but also introduces them to the fascinating world of Sherlock Holmes.
Enola Holmes has strong performances all around. The A list cast does not disappoint and manages to keep our attention throughout. The best moments of the films are not the adventures, rather they are the conversations between Sherlock and Enola.
Even after adapting an admirable concept, the film manages to squander it all and seems to be only interested in setting up a franchise.
Easily the biggest issue of the film is the breaking of the fourth wall. Creators of Enola Holmes seemed to be inspired by Pheobe Waller-Bridge’s genius comedy-drama, Fleabag. The problem is that they reduced this ingenious tool to a simple unnecessary gimmick to appear “cool”. It only serves as an expository tool. The camerawork during the fourth wall break seemed awkward and so does Brown, who otherwise has given a fantastic performance. Instead of fleshing out these characters it only messed up the pacing of the film.
Secondly, by setting itself in the Sherlock Holmes universe, the film presents itself as primarily a mystery film. But that is not the case. It is in fact an adventure film.
The film suffers from the same problem as Harry Potter and The Cursed Child. They both attach themselves to hugely popular characters and created productions in a different genre to the original production. This happens because the creators lack an understanding of the source material. Interestingly, both Enola Holmes and Harry Potter and The Cursed Child have the same writer to write the screen/stage adaptations, Jack Thorne. He clearly hasn’t learnt anything from The Cursed Child.
The film also has to continuously remind you that Enola Holmes is smart. It does not do so by simply showing her make smart deductions but rather by all side characters telling you time and again that Enola Holmes if very smart.
It also has one too many anagrams. It seems to mistake mystery solving for scrambling letters around. The main “mystery” seems lazily written. The film also uses an excess of deus ex machinas and plot conveniences to propel the story forward.
The film uses animations for exposition dumps and also a lot of visual effects to establish 1800s London. The former brings a few chuckles but unfortunately the latter is absolutely abysmal. The film seemed to have a sufficient budget, which makes the terrible CGI inexcusable.
One of the film’s biggest mistakes is the under utilization of an actress as talented as Helena Bonham Carter in the role of Enola’s mother, Eudoria.
This film is solely for the teenage fans Millie Bobby Brown acquired from her role as Eleven on Stranger Things. Unfortunately, her endearing performance along with Henry Cavill’s captivating Sherlock Holmes isn’t enough to save the film.
As for fans of the Baker Street detective, the film is a massive letdown primarily because of the appalling writing, which has always been the one the best part of Sherlock related films, books and tv shows.