The character of Sherlock Holmes has been in so many movies, TV shows, and stage productions that his brilliance doesn’t make much of an impact anymore. It’s taken for granted that he will notice minute details that no one else would ever see, helping him solve crimes that are otherwise baffling.
The only way to refresh a character like him is to introduce some new element, which is where Enola Holmes comes in. Based on the first book in the YA series by Nancy Springer, the film focuses on Sherlock’s heretofore unknown younger sister, Enola (Millie Bobby Brown), raised by her mother (Helena Bonham Carter) to be strong and inquisitive, albeit with a lack of formal education.
When Mrs. Holmes disappears, Enola’s much older brothers Sherlock (Henry Cavill) and Mycroft (Sam Claflin) return to see to her care. Determined to find her mom, though, Enola quickly escapes and makes her way to London, running headlong into another type of mystery involving Lord Tewksbury (Louis Partridge), who’s running away from his upper-class family for political reasons.
Directed by Harry Bradbeer and written by Jack Thorne, both veterans of British TV, the film plays like an introduction to the legend of Holmes for tweens and teenagers. Brown directly addresses the camera to the point of overuse, a technique Bradbeer may have been inspired to use after directing the majority of the TV series Fleabag. Despite its abundance, Brown’s enthusiastic performance makes it work, and the film’s intended audience will likely have no issue with it.
Overall, the film is effervescent and fun, although anyone looking for the intriguing mystery of regular Sherlock Holmes stories will find that part missing. There are cryptic elements in need of decoding, but none of them are compelling. Lord Tewksbury’s side of the story involves something about a reform bill in Parliament, a snoozer despite the mini-adventure he and Enola get into.
It’s Brown’s acting that carries the day. Best known for her role as Eleven on Stranger Things, this part feels much closer to the real-life persona she’s shown on talk shows, which is a delight. The film gives her a few moments to be more than just a young girl, and she ably walks the line between both worlds.
Cavill is good, but not as interesting as the usual Sherlock, perhaps by design so as not to overshadow Enola. Claflin plays the stuck-up Mycroft brilliantly, while Bonham Carter does well in limited screentime. Partridge has the demeanor for his particular role, but he comes off pretty bland, especially when next to Brown.
Enola Holmes is a lark of a film that might have the possibility of becoming a mini-franchise for Netflix. Brown is the clear winner of the film, as she embodies everything the character needs to be and makes the trite technique of talking to the camera bearable with her charm.
Enola Holmes is streaming exclusively on Netflix.