Netflix UK film review: Enola Holmes
Charlotte Harrison | On 23, Sep 2020
Director: Harry Bradbeer
Cast: Millie Bobby Brown, Henry Cavill, Sam Claflin, Helena Bonham Carter
Watch Enola Holmes online in the UK: Netflix UK
It really does feel like we’ve hit saturation point when it comes to Sherlock Holmes adaptations and related materials. While Enola Holmes is an admirable attempt at doing something new with the world’s greatest sleuth, the result is something that is perfectly fine. Not particularly bad, and not particularly good, but perfectly fine.
Based on a young adult book series that ran from 2006 to 2010 and very much targeted at teens, Enola Holmes is the story of Sherlock and Mycroft’s 16-year-old teen sister. When their mother goes missing, Enola decides to disobey her brother’s instructions to go to a finishing school and embarks on a quest to find their mum herself.
Right now there is a real boom of young adult crime. Books such as One of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus and A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson are just two examples that have crossed the adult/young adult divide and have both had long runs in the New York Times Bestsellers list. That’s not to mention Robin Stevens’ incredible and immensely popular Murder Most Unladylike series, if you’re after a modern crime series set in the past. In short, the kids are alright and they clearly have a thirst for crime and knowledge.
But Enola Holmes isn’t necessarily a film that will call to them and it’s certainly not got enough about it to be beloved. The plot is thin and the dialogue is far from memorable. More often than not the things that make it not-your-average-Holmes-story are observations of these differences, as opposed to jokes or witty commentary – telling us these distinctions as opposed to showing them. For instance, comments about Enola’s attire, behaviour and the general expectations for Victorian women are made without actually really saying anything meaningful beyond “Huh, look at that!” in an arch or knowing manner.
These aspects are semi-redeemed by the charming cast. Millie Bobby Brown is an excellent lead as Enola. She gives us a slightly showy and over-the-top performance that works. Just. Her constant breaking of the fourth wall – a la Fleabag, which helmer Harry Bradbeer directed – adds a degree of freshness to proceedings, allowing us to feel something like an accomplice to her antics. Sam Claflin is entertaining yet rather one-note as an extremely pedant Mycroft. Henry Cavill is a rather charming Sherlock, although he doesn’t have all that much to do. Helena Bonham Carter, as their mother, is shown to be an intriguing ahead-of-her-time revolutionary but she’s thinly sketched out within flashbacks, and we don’t really get to see enough of her.
This is the film’s problem overall. A great cast, great costumes and great settings don’t always make a great film when there’s just not enough to it. Considering the running time of 123 minutes, it’s asking for a lot with very little return.
Enola Holmes is available on Netflix UK, as part of an £9.99 monthly subscription.