Review: 'Enola Holmes' (2020) Dir. Harry Bradbeer
Adapted from the 2006 novel by Nancy Springer, this twist on the world of Sherlock Holmes as everything needed for a spin-off franchise where women lead in a man's world....
Young Enola Holmes (Brown), brother of famous detective Sherlock (Cavill) and Mycroft (Claflin), has lived a rather isolated life with her mother Eudoria (Carter). But on Enola's 16th birthday, Eudoria vanishes.
With Sherlock secretly supporting Enola's desire to find their mother, but Mycroft out to have her sent to boarding school, Enola takes matters into her own hand and flees in search of Eudoria.
However, Enola is drawn into a scandal after a chance encounter with Viscount Tewkesbury (Partridge) and finds herself pitted against great dangers, all while avoiding her brothers searching for her and making it her goal to find her mother at all costs...
American author Nancy Springer created the character of Enola Holmes in 2006 for the young adult novels 'The Enola Holmes Mysteries'. While Enola was not a creation from the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle estate, she nevertheless is set in and around a myriad of familiar locations and characters from the beloved series. Enola was one of the newer young female characters in literature give readers someone to aspire to; to find themselves in and see how a young girl can easily stand-up for herself and be counted in what mostly was a man's world.
Loosely adapting the debut novel 'The Case of the Missing Marquess', director Harry Bradbeer (of 'Killing Eve' and 'Fleabag' fame) helps bring to life Enola for a new generation of both film and literature fans. In the same entertaining, family-friendly adventures as 'Young Sherlock Holmes' or even 'The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles', this is period adventures at it's safest that could kick-start a whole new franchise for Netflix to ride on.
The film adds fresh takes to old characters, stories and scenarios whilst pushing forward heavy morals and messages of equality, family and self-belief.
This, along with an energetic score by Daniel Pemberton and some lush practical and CGI visuals by Giles Nuttgens to bring Victorian London to life, shows how much can be done with the right material and right talent to bring it to life on the small screen (COVID-19 helped debunk any potential of a theatrical release).
A wonderfully British cast populate the Holmes family; Sam Claflin is one step away from a moustache twiddling villain as over-protective guardian Mycroft. Henry Cavill has the acting range of a crumpet and somehow feels wooden and lacking gusto as great detective Sherlock, even though he carries of charm and charisma. Helena Bonham Carter is strong-minded and strong-willed mother Eudoria Holmes who is nothing short of a pillar of strength and solidarity to her family, and young Millie Bobby Brown (of 'Stranger Things' fame) is our heroine Enola.
We have support in the likes of Adeel Akhtar as the amusing, hardwilled Detective Lestrade, Burn Gorman as the villainous Linthorn, Fiona Shaw on fine form as prim boarding school mistress Miss Harrison and newcomer Louis Partridge as Viscount Twekesbury; a baby faced teenager who is every bit as predictable and lovably oafish as Enola's partner for this adventure.
Brown certainly has the acting ability to convey what is needed for Enola. She is strong and independent, learning from her mother to stand strong in a man's world, but she is also young and afraid; always in the shadows of her brothers fame and unaware of the wider world. The 4th wall breaks come far too often and hammer home this is a real tongue-in-cheek, family-friendly piece of fluff, and sadly it's just a little TOO in your face at times. Brown may well be a good actor with the right energy for young Enola on the cusp of finding herself, but it was the more played down and emotive aspects of her character that hit harder than anything else. The character, at times, just feels that bit too forced to be a spunky young Nancy Drew of the Victorian ages, and there is nothing new to her sort of rebellious character we haven't seen before.
While the action is safe and as dangerous as it can be for a family-friendly film, everything around our cast is tonally authentic and looks just as it needs to. The period piece costumes and set design are faultless, and a great deal of practical props and sets make this a very comfortable era to set a Holmes mystery in without the need for making it present day. There just doesn't seem to be anything that truly can be seen as inspirational for young audiences when it's all been done before; but kudos for bringing in the Reform Bill as a plot device.
A strong cast make this a big appeal to fans of the books and casual audiences, but there is not a lot holding all the parts together to make it fully entertaining or brave enough to step away from the cliché themes present in so many of these young adult narratives.
'Enola Holmes' is a Legendary Pictures / Warner Bros. Pictures production