Spoilers think Mycroft needs to take a chill pill.
Let’s start with the basics. There is no huge mystery in this film. There are unanswered questions, some that the film tries to answer and some that it leaves hanging. I’m actually going to give you the answer to some of those. To give it all away at the start, this is an entertaining film that doesn’t include any classic Sherlock Holmes mystery. There’s a few things in the film that I did have issues on, but fortunately the film is fun enough to let them slide.
Enola Holmes (2020) was directed by Harry Bradbeer. The screenplay was written by Jack Thorne based on the novel by Nancy Springer. Enola (Millie Bobby Brown), young sister of Mycroft (Sam Claflin) and Sherlock Holmes (Henry Cavill) has spent all her life being raised by her rebellious mother Eudora (Helena Bonham Carter) to decode cyphers, read every book in the house, fight with Jiu-Jitsu, play chess and be as independent as she wants to be, society be damned. The day of her 16 birthday, her mother disappears without a trace and Enola reunites with her brothers just to learn that Mycroft, who is know her guardian, wants to put her in a finishing school to educate (or rather, indoctrinate her) in the ways of a “proper” lady.
First of all, this is not a Sherlock Holmes movie. He’s obviously not the main character, but this film is not a Sherlock Holmes case either. The first thing that seemed bad but turns out to be a good thing, is that Enola breaks the fourth wall throughout the movie. She doesn’t only become the narrator but makes the audience complicit of whenever things are about to go askew. You’ll either find this endearing or annoying or transition from one to the other. I must confess that I first find it annoying and then it just became charming. Sometimes Brown just stares at the camera with a “do you see what I have to deal with” look in a way that I couldn’t help but find amusing.
Enola runs away because this is what we want to see. Actually this is the real reason that her mother disappears and Sherlock doesn’t save her from Mycroft. We need our heroine to have no recourse but to run away head first into an adventure where she immediately meets the lost Viscount Tewkesbury, Marquess of Basilwether (Louis Partridge). The fact that Enola keeps calling him a nincompoop and completely useless already suggests she might have something for him. To be honest, Partridge is particularly good at walking this line between vulnerable and charming. It’s rather refreshing to see a completely different young couple dynamic here. This young couple has more chemistry than some adult pairings in movies as of late.
Another good thing I did love was to notice how, as smart as Enola and Sherlock are, they come to a solution by different roads. Enola is trying to find her mother by following clues she left for her and only Enola can see. Sherlock discovers Eudora’s ties to London by finding her hidden correspondence. Actually, and this would be a major spoiler, Enola doesn’t solve one of the biggest mystery by deduction. She believes the wrong person is the culprit. Sherlock does, but he’s a day late. Enola wins because she’s actually involved and finds the real culprit. That highlights the basic difference between their two approaches. Sherlock is pure deduction, but keeps a distance between himself and the subject. Enola makes up with heart as she does not hesitate to get close.
The film is particularly fair about how they both could learn from each other. Actually, Sherlock does get called on his privilege by Edith (Susan Wokoma) who runs a tea house in London and a secret Jiu-Jitsu school for women. Sherlock gets bored with politics. Edith calls him out because he has the luxury to stay uninvolved thanks to the status that society grants him for being a white guy. This gives Sherlock something to think about, which one hopes will make the character grow to help Enola. There is a certain measure of responsibility on Cavill’s portrayal of this Sherlock. He’s not a hero but his role in the story is not far from one. Mycroft gets all the antagonist lines on this one.
The emphasis are not in crime-solving or deduction. We get enough cypher/decypher early on. As I’ve said already the movie is about Enola, who’s a more balanced mix of brain and heart, and so is the movie. As a Holmes, Enola is definitely the most personable and sociable of the bunch. Her mother is secretive, her brother Mycroft is stuffy and set on old ways and her brother Sherlock prefers his distance. Actually, the mischief that Enola gets to do seems to be admired by Sherlock, as if he might have embraced that spark himself when younger and forgotten about it.
I found the weakest link to be Eudora’s motives for leaving Enola. You can blame Mycroft for being a complete stuck-up. You can blame Sherlock for not getting involved. But her mother is supposed to be her kindred soul. Yes, I’m aware of the reason the movie makes her abandon Enola – we want to see her take an adventure of her own. That doesn’t work for Eudora as a character, as much as we want to accept that from her. Eudora’s real motives seem to be hinted as a revolutionary to the point of revolt. That still doesn’t explain leaving her young daughter abruptly. That being said, I’m willing to concede that is something that the books might expand upon. There could be a sequel to the film to develop that angle further, which I would look forward to see.
Strongly recommended for a refreshing take on fun and adventure with a few reservations. Again, this is an original version and not a Sherlock Holmes story. Think of it more as an adventure film for a younger audience with some Holmes traits. The violence sometimes goes just a little too much for younger audiences, so parents might want to pre-watch it before showing it to small children. Millie Bobby Brown genuinely seems to have fun with the character and delivers a rather entertaining performance, accent and all. Definitely an entertaining watch.
That will do for now.