Director: Harry Bradbeer
Starring: Millie Bobby Brown, Henry Cavill, Sam Clafin, Fiona Shaw, Adeel Akhtar, Frances de la Tour, Louis Partridge, Susan Wokoma, Burn Gorman and Helena Bonham Carter
Run time: 2h 3min
Young Enola Holmes (Millie Bobby Brown) has had an unconventional upbringing. Home-schooled in a variety of subjects, including hand-to-hand combat and lateral thinking by her reclusive mother (Helena Bonham Carter), Enola’s world crumbles when her mum disappears with no explanation, leaving behind a handful of cryptic clues as to her whereabouts. Events are complicated further by the return of Enola’s older brothers, belligerent Mycroft (Sam Clafin) and the one and only Superman, wait, super-sleuth, Sherlock (Henry Cavill).
Horrified by Enola’s lack of etiquette and unorthodox education, Mycroft asserts his overbearing authority and enlists her in a finishing school to turn her into a ‘proper lady’ whilst he and Sherlock attempt to find their mother. Refusing to follow this conventional path, Enola takes matters into her own hands and flees. Her safety is compromised as she becomes entangled in a further mystery involving a young Lord (Louis Partridge). Together, the pair enter a world of danger, code-breaking and crime as Enola hunts for the truth about her mother and the mystery surrounding her new friend.
There have been many incarnations of Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous detective, most recently Robert Downey Jnr and Benedict Cumberbatch, but Sherlock steps aside in Enola Holmes to allow his younger sister to take the lead. Based on the novel by Nancy Springer the action takes place primarily in London during a period of great change. The 1884 Reform Act is hoping to be passed allowing more people the right to vote, as the Suffragists begin their campaign for women to be included.
Director Harry Bradbeer brings a quirky charm to proceedings with the audience being addressed directly by Enola and some black & white animation popping up every now and then. The cinematography and locations bring a relaxed, comforting familiarity reminiscent of similar shows in this genre such as Miss Marple or Poirotand Daniel Pemberton’s jaunty score adds to the overall cosiness. Although occasionally modern in its approach, there’s plenty here to please purists. The 12 certificate is justified, however, as it’s slightly dark in places with moments of surprising violence.
Henry Cavill shows a humanity and warmth in his interpretation of Sherlock as he often finds himself outwitted by his younger sibling. Just entering his famous years, he’s not quite as emotionally distant as previous performers have portrayed. Here, he can’t help but become emotionally involved with Enola’s plight causing conflict with his older brother. Indeed, Sam Clafin’s Mycroft is delightfully snobbish as he obstinately attempts to carve out for his sister the traditional path a young lady is supposed to tread. His strong politically views are very much of the time, but this is an England whose evolution will resonate with many in today’s current climate.
A fine ensemble cast all have their moments, particularly Burn Gorman who excels as Linthorn, relishing in his malevolence as he shows no hesitation in attempting to kill a child. Fiona Shaw is called upon again by Bradbeer (the pair worked together on Killing Eve) and she shows her class as the severe headmistress of Enola’s school. Louis Partridge displays an infectious youthful enthusiasm and he and Brown have terrific chemistry together.
As good as those around her are, this is very much Millie Bobby Brown’s film. Those familiar with Stranger Things will know she’s already a cracking actor and here, she registers another fine performance. Deftly juggling action and comedy, it’s an accomplished showing and at only 16 years old, her talent is frightening. Brown has created an inspirational role-model for the younger generation, particularly young women. Bright and resourceful, she’s doggedly determined to follow her heart, utilising her unique set of skills to great effect.
Enola Holmes is a delightful twist on Arthur Conan Doyle’s legacy, made even more watchable thanks to Brown’s superb turn. Featuring an important message to the youth of today, this sister is well and truly doing it for herself.
Enola Holmes streams on Netflix from September 23rd.