Directed by Harry Bradbeer
Streaming on Netflix
Enola Holmes is, in a word, fun. Sure, there are moments of darkness and some of the violence feels a little too real, but at the end of the day, when the credits roll, Enola Holmes is fun. And if this curmudgeon can have fun, I'm kinda thinking the target audience might have some fun as well. The movie is light and energetic and probably won't solve any of the world's problems. But that's fine. There are good and smart and educated people trying to solve a number of the world's problems. And if they want to spend 2 hours watching Enola Holmes and having fun, who is going to get upset with them? They deserve the occasional break from trying to solve the world's problems. And, maybe, in a way, in a slightly convoluted way, maybe Enola Holmes can help solve a few of the world's many problems. So, there. It's settled. Enola Holmes is fun and important.
Anyway. Millie Bobby Brown is a delight as Enola Holmes, the younger sister of Sherlock and Mycroft. She seems to really be enjoying herself in this role, and that joy emanates from the screen and is the good kind of contagious. Her performance is peppered with asides to the camera, with winks and smiles and eyebrow raises. From someone so young this kind of fourth wall breaking could have come off as just a gimmick, but Ms Brown has a confidence that prevents the whole thing from feeling fake. The audience becomes her confidant and her co-conspirator.
The lightness of Ms Brown's performance extends to the other performances in Enola Holmes. Everyone in the movie seems to be walking a little lighter than their more famous public personas. Helena Bonham Carter, a capital S Serious Actress, is having all the fun. She is completely believable as the mother of 3 eccentrics, but also, in her brief screen time, creates a woman whose secret life runs deep. Sam Claflin plays Mycroft as a man whose myopia convinces him he is doing the best for someone while doing the absolute worst for them. A man who has to know he's no where as smart as his younger brother. And speaking of that younger brother… For the first time in… ever? Anyway. For the first time in a long time, we meet a Sherlock and we aren't preoccupied with what an absolute jerk he is. It's not that Henry Cavill's Sherlock is hugging kittens and telling dad jokes. No, this Sherlock is still a cold wall of rational thought and deductive reasoning. He's just not a jackass about it. He cares about his family but he isn't actively trying to make everyone hate him. It's weird but that little subtle change makes his Sherlock as unique as anything that Johnny Lee Miller, Benedict Cumberbatch or Robert Downey, Jr. brought to their takes on history's most famous detective.
But what is Enola Holmes about, I can hear you asking. Fine, I'll tell you. As the 19th century comes to a close, young Enola has grown up in the family estate with only her mother and the housekeeper. She has been home schooled by her mother and gifted with a love of word games. Her father passed when she was quite young, her brothers leaving for their own paths shortly after. Anyway, on her 16th birthday she finds that her mother has left with no warning and Enola sets out to solve the mystery of her mother's disappearance. On her journey to London she encounters another mystery, the runaway Viscount Tewkesbury, Marquess of Basilwether and a man in a bowler hat who seems to be intent on causing grievous harm to the young Tewkesbury. Enola finds herself putting aside the mystery of her mother's disappearance to solve the mystery of whatever is going on with Tewkesbury. And things happen. The elevator pitch for Enola Holmes was probably 'sister of Sherlock has to solve 2 mysteries, one of them is the disappearance of her mother'. At its core, Enola Holmes is something else. It's a story that celebrates non-conformity, that praises people that burn their own path through the world. Enola Holmes also has a giant heart and isn't afraid to show it off.
For older folks, Enola Holmes is an opportunity to watch British actors and actresses do what they do best and have fun while doing it. For its target audience, Enola Holmes never lags, is never too weighty, is brisk and light and, again that damn word, fun. It feels like the first chapter in a franchise without ever feeling like an origin story. I really do hope we get more chapters in the Enola Holmes story.