Review: Netflix’s Enola Holmes is a charming distraction from a miserable year

This YA adaptation is an engaging, fun adventure and Millie Bobby Brown is downright great as the resourceful hero


ENOLA HOLMES (Harry Bradbeer). 123 minutes. Now streaming on Netflix. Rating: NNNN


Look, I won’t lie to you: things are grim right now. We’re six months into a global pandemic, Ontario’s case numbers are trending upward in a very bad way and winter is coming. A movie like Enola Holmes won’t save the world, but it’s a very pleasant distraction.

Adapted from the YA books by Nancy Springer, Enola Holmes – which was supposed to open in theatres earlier this year, before the plague shuttered megaplexes everywhere – is a charming, comfortable adventure comedy with a fun, self-aware protagonist solving mysteries and having the occasional ju-jitsu battle. Kids will love it; I enjoyed it rather a lot myself. Also, Millie Bobby Brown is a movie star now. Good for her.

Those of us worried that Brown – of Stranger Things and Godzilla, King Of The Monsters – might seem too contemporary (or too American) to play the part of Sherlock Holmes’s spunky younger sister will find her a surprisingly good fit for the part. Enola is a young woman ahead of her time, so Brown’s modern leanings suit the character, forever bristling at corsets and curtsying and propriety: they keep slowing her down, when all she wants to do is move forward.

To put us further at ease, Enola gets to interact with the camera, a trick director Harry Bradbeer brought over from the second season of Fleabag. It’s not just the occasional aside, but a whole menu of glances, shrugs and gestures integrated into the character throughout the film, and it works really well.

Home-schooled by her brilliant, eccentric mother (Helena Bonham-Carter, of course) while her elder brothers Sherlock (Henry Cavill) and Mycroft (Sam Claflin) are off establishing themselves in London, Enola is just as brilliant and capable as any Holmes, though she has very little experience of the outside world.

And when Mother goes missing on Enola’s 16th birthday, leaving some her cryptic clues and a great deal of cash, Enola sets out to find her – a quest that will get her tangled up in the life of a young runaway (Louis Partridge), the emerging women’s suffrage movement, and of course in the business of her brothers.

It’s energetic and engaging, but Bradbeer and screenwriter Jack Thorne make sure to establish real stakes for Enola, tied up in themes of emancipation and familial expectation. (There are physical stakes as well, mostly in the form of Burn Gorman as a gentleman assassin whose path crosses Enola’s a few times too many.)

Best of all, the larger the world of Enola Holmes gets, it never loses sight of Enola herself. Brown’s simply terrific in the role – and it’s also rather lovely to see Cavill, as her famously observant brother, doing some subtle tricks of his own to match Brown’s performance, making the pair seem more simpatico when they’re on-screen together – and further putting Claflin’s bossy Mycroft at a remove.

So, yeah. Spend two hours with a fun, confident young hero who refuses to be confined by either the Victorian age or the movie that exists around her. Everyone’s having a good time, there are a couple of explosions and Year Of The Rabbit’s Susan Wokoma turns up as a woman who runs a tea shoppe. It’s a really pleasant distraction.

@normwilner

Comments (1)

  • Kelly Daye September 24, 2020 01:37 AM

    I just watched Enola Holmes on Netflix and it was so fun. I was hoping it was a series and not just a movie to end the adventure where it did.

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