“You have to make some noise if you want to be heard.”
Enola Holmes is, from start to finish, a blast from the past and a light-hearted take on the fictional sleuth with just the right amount of prescient – and I’d argue absolutely necessary – social commentary of the then and the now. And the film’s greatest strength, outside of its wooing charm, is that, unlike so many movies of late, it doesn’t knock us over the head with the clear messaging layered in its carefully manicured mystery. Enola Holmes packs so much fun and personality that you don’t feel as if you’re being lectured on feminism or the fight for equal rights, but it’s all there in droves. This is a proud, entertaining, unexpectedly enlightening picture. And one I did not see coming. What a refreshing, blindsiding, connective cross to the jaw. You can’t help but to feel it every step of the way.
Based on the novel by Nancy Springer, Enola Holmes opens on the young and spirited protagonist’s 16th birthday. Mom (Helena Bonham Carter) has disappeared, leaving the home-schooled and thoroughly trained Enola (Millie Bobby Brown) desperate to find clues and trace her tracks. Maybe her brothers can help. After all, Sherlock (Henry Cavill) is the era’s most prodigious detective, and the government official – as well as her legal guardian – Mycroft (Sam Claflin) might be of service. Sherlock is taken by Enola’s curiosity and intelligence; Mycroft sees her as a dissident in need of finishing school. Needless to say, she’s like an oil spill in a watered down world where women are meant to be lesser, and she will not stand for it. Enola has a mystery to solve and the patriarchy can’t stop her from doing so.
While there are few forks in the road you expect from a sly mystery story, Enola Holmes always makes the right decision by giving us spoonfuls of the leading lady’s fast wit and fierce want. A lesser movie would have made the big brothers, especially the literary icon Sherlock, more prominent components. Here they are basically bystanders, always two steps behind their little sister. When Enola meets the handsome Viscount Tewksbury (Louis Partirdge), both running away from lives they haven’t chosen for themselves, you expect the story to lean into the trappings of the oft romanticized Romeo & Juliet. That’s not a card in Enola’s hand, and so the film doesn’t play the easy route. Instead, this movie is about discovery. Of the mystery, of the self, of a place or an occupation to call home. With a brilliantly familiar yet resonantly new score by Daniel Pemberton, Enola Holmes seamlessly weaves all aspects together as one, and it builds towards something worthy of permanence in a streaming world. This is a very good film. People deserve to see it. And so they shall.
Jack Thorne’s sharp script – alongside Harry Bradbeer’s able direction – are both brought to life by the effervescence of Millie Bobby Brown, whose infectiousness quite literally makes this Enola’s story to tell. When Brown breaks the 4th wall, duplicating the device perfected in the flawless Fleabag, the movie seems to be bridging the gap between historically backwards Victorian era ideologies and modern progressiveness. Like I said before…of the then and the now. Suffragettes suffered in their days and the struggle continues as the pendulum seemingly swings back towards conservatism. There’s always a push and a pull. That’s how the Universe works, so politics must oblige. Yet Enola is too jejune and not yet jaded enough to be entrenched in either side; she simply fights for what is right. After all, it’s not that complicated when you open your eyes and do a little digging. I wonder why that’s so hard for most movies when Enola Holmes makes it look so effortlessly easy, is so engaging and so unequivocally steeped in the power of hope driven by diligence. It’s intentional that Enola rides into the story and off towards the horizon. There’s work to be done and she’s best suited for the job. I can’t wait to see what she uncovers next.
“My life is my own. And the future is up to us.”
Rating: 4 out of 5