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Review: Enola Holmes (2020)

Enola Holmes (2020)

Directed by: Harry Bradbeer

Premise: Enola Holmes (Millie Bobby Brown), the teenage sister of the famed detective Sherlock Holmes (Henry Cavill), travels to London in search of her mother. Along the way she gets mixed up in a plot to murder a young nobleman (Louis Partridge).

What Works: There are a lot of Sherlock Holmes movies; Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous detective is the single most frequently portrayed character is all of cinema and in the past decade there have been several new Holmes films and television shows. Despite the preponderance of motion pictures in this franchise, Enola Holmes manages to be a distinct entry. The film sets itself apart from others primarily through its shift in focus; this is a story about the detective’s teenage sister and her coming of age. In doing so the film offers a look at the Holmes family including Enola’s brothers Sherlock and Mycroft (Sam Claflin) and their mother Eudoria (Helena Bonham Carter). That family background changes how we think about Sherlock Holmes and makes this a distinct entry in the film canon. Enola Holmes is a family-oriented mix of action and a detective story and it succeeds at that quite well. The film moves along briskly and with good humor. The mystery is complicated enough to hold the audience’s interest; the story is neither so complex that young viewers will be lost nor so obvious that older viewers will see through it. The greatest asset of Enola Holmes is Millie Bobby Brown’s performance in the title role. Brown is best known for somber characters in Stranger Things and 2019’s Godzilla: King of the Monsters but she gets to showcase her range in Enola Holmes. The film makes great use of her humor and charisma and Brown brings a combination of physicality, intelligence, and vulnerability to the role that makes the character and the film very appealing.

What Doesn’t: The story of Enola Holmes is overstuffed with subplots and the picture strains to do each of them justice. The two primary narrative threads are the assassination plot against a young nobleman and Enola’s search for her mother. Although one storyline eventually dovetails into the other, Enola Holmes flip-flops between these subplots in a way that interrupts the film’s momentum. Enola has a distant relationship with her brothers and the film is partly about Enola and Sherlock coming together. This isn’t done very well because the film doesn’t put the two of them together very much nor is there much cat and mouse action as Sherlock searches for his sister. One aspect of the film that’s alarmingly passed over is the implication that Enola’s mother is a domestic terrorist. It’s made obvious that she’s planning a Gunpowder Plot-like bombing. The movie just grazes over this fact without it ever changing how Enola thinks about her mother or how the film characterizes her.

DVD extras: Currently available on Netflix.

Bottom Line: Enola Holmes is an appealing family-friendly adventure. It suffers from too much plot getting in the way of the story but the fast pace, humor, and likable performance by Millie Bobby Brown overcomes most of the movie’s narrative deficiencies.

Episode: #828 (November 22, 2020)