The charming Millie Bobby Brown brings vibrancy to an otherwise mediocre Enola Holmes.
Enola Holmes ★★★
Staring: Millie Bobby Brown, Henry Cavill, Sam Claflin, Adeel Akhtar, Fiona Shaw, Frances de la Tour, Louis Partridge, Susie Wokoma, and Helena Bonham Carter
Directed by: Harry Bradbeer
Tagline: Mystery runs in the family
Netflix introduces us to Sherlock Holmes’s younger sister in Enola Holmes, a lively albeit rather simplistic teen adventure that finds the lovely Millie Bobby Brown playing a sort of Victorian Nancy Drew.
The film is based on the teenage sleuth created by author Nancy Springer for her young adult series that borrows characters from Arthur Conan Doyle’s celebrated works.
The action kicks off when the youngest Holmes sibling is visited by her brothers, Sherlock (Henry Cavill) and Mycroft (Sam Claflin), after their mother’s (Helena Bonham Carter) sudden disappearance. Finding her uncouth and troublesome, Mycroft decides to send his sister to a finishing school run by the stern Miss Harrison (Fiona Shaw). But the free-spirited Enola decides, instead, to run away. Her plan is to find her mother using the cryptic clues she has left behind.
But before she can trail her missing parent, Enola runs into the young Viscount Tewkesbury (Louis Partridge) who is in a pickle of his own. After initially trying to get rid of him, she decides to help Tewkesbury while continuing her search for her mum, all the while dodging Sherlock and Mycroft.
The mystery itself is rather weak – the Tewkesbury arc is pedestrian, the mother subplot is unsatisfying – and the endeavour often feels an awful lot like sloppily conceived fan fiction. Those familiar with Doyle’s work are likely to point out that the Holmes brothers are almost unrecognizable here. Sherlock is an intelligent, suave gentleman instead of an eccentric genius. Mycroft has just been reduced to an annoyance. The whole exercise basically serves as a reminder that fierce female characters don’t need a connection to (distorted versions of) iconic male characters to be compelling.
Yet it’s hard not to be charmed by this light-hearted romp, thanks in large part to the considerable talents of Millie Bobby Brown who brings vivacious energy to her role and proves she can make even a mediocre story delightful. Brown is vibrant, effusive, and charismatic, and because of her performance, so is her character. It also helps that the rest of the cast is also very effective in each of their roles, even when the script lets them down.
Enola Holmes is, ultimately, pretty basic but still fun to watch, and the credit for that goes to its winsome cast as well as director Harry Bradbeer who brings shades of Fleabag to the adventure. Supposedly the first instalment in a likely franchise, the film does leave you hoping that next time this feisty heroine will come with a more convincing narrative.
Rating system: ★Not on your life ★ ½ If you really must waste your time ★★ Hardly worth the bother ★★ ½ Okay for a slow afternoon only
★★★ Good enough for a look see ★★★ ½ Recommended viewing ★★★★ Don’t miss it ★★★★ ½ Almost perfect ★★★★★ Perfection