Movie Guru: Enola Holmes is the best part of Netflix’s deep dive into the Sherlock Holmes world
You’ll fall in love with Enola Holmes, but it may take you awhile to warm up to the rest of the movie.
The best part of “Enola Holmes,” new on Netflix this weekend, is Millie Bobby Brown’s absolutely charming performance as the titular character. She’s a perfect addition to the famous literary family, a clever and irascible young detective propelled by a warm heart and a deep well of determination. I would be thrilled to see dozens of her adventures.
For the first part of the movie, however, she was the only thing I was thrilled about. “Enola Holmes” starts out far too slowly, taking far too much of its early run time tying her to the rest of the Sherlock Holmes universe. It’s especially tiring because the movie’s interpretation of the Holmes’ brothers are far less interesting than Enola herself is, and I repeatedly found myself wanting them both out of the way so the movie would spend more time with Enola.
The movie serves as her origin story, opening with highlights of her unconventional childhood spent with her widowed mother. It’s not long before the mother disappears abruptly and her much older estranged brothers, Sherlock and Mycroft, enter the picture. They despair of what to do with her, with Mycroft making plans to send her off to a boarding school, so Enola takes matters into her own hands and goes searching for her mother herself.
Enola is the perfect young adult protagonist, spunky and clever with a tendency to charge straight into impossible situations and somehow manage to survive them. She’s got all the eccentricities you would expect of a Sherlock-style character, with a warmth and compassion that’s sometimes sadly missing from interpretations of the classic detective. She’s clearly still learning her trade, but it’s a delight to watch her untangle the mysteries she ends up wandering into.
One of those mysteries involves a runaway young lordling who’s in far more danger than he realizes. Louis Partridge does a lovely job as the young man in question, clever on his own while seemingly happy to play Watson to her Holmes. Partridge and Brown have a great dynamic, packing a ton of emotion into mostly small moments, and I’d love for them to get the chance to explore that dynamic more in later movies.
The rest of the Holmes family is, unfortunately, less engaging. Helena Bonham Carter is mostly a cypher as Enola’s mother, and Mycroft is a parody of every oppressive father/uncle/older brother figure often found in novels set in this time period. Henry Cavill does what he can as Sherlock, giving the character a somewhat awkward, emotionally repressed sense of compassion that isn’t at all worth the controversy it ended up causing. He still comes off as uncomfortably bland, however, all of his usual eccentricity and command having already been taken by Enola.
Still, those failings are a small price to pay for getting to spend time with Enola and her Watson. I’ve been a Sherlock fan for years, but after this movie I may have a new favorite Holmes.
Rated PG-13 for some violence
Written by: Jack Thorne, based on the novel by Nancy Springer
Directed by: Harry Bradbeer
Starring: Millie Bobby Brown, Henry Cavill, Sam Claflin, Helena Bonham Carter, Fiona Shaw, Adeel Akhtar, Frances de la Tour Louis Partridge and more
Grade: Three stars
Jenniffer Wardell is an award-winning movie critic and member of the Denver Film Critics Society. Find her on Twitter at @wardellwriter or drop her a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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