This non-canonical tale of the Holmes' younger sister provides both an entertaining yet important feminist watch for the next generation.
Surrounding a non-canonical version of the Holmes family based on the the novels by Nancy Springer, Enola Holmes centres around the protagonist of the same name portrayed by Stranger Things star Millie Bobby Brown. With the likes of daring adventure, feminist advice from Helena Bonham Carter herself and witty self-aware dialogue, this film is set to become a memorable watch for its young demographic while also providing a fun family viewing experience.
Brought up and taught by her mother Eudoria (Helena Bonham Carter), Enola Holmes’ secluded country life is turned upside down upon Eudoria’s sudden disappearance, forcing older brothers Mycroft (Sam Claflin) and Sherlock (Henry Cavill) to return to the family home both in search for her and deciding what must be done with their sister. Set upon bringing back her idol, Enola must tackle her way through Mycroft and society’s attempts to reign her into a ‘proper woman’, while running into even bigger trouble as she finds her actions directly hinge upon the passing of the Reform Bill.
The film dons the aesthetic of a child-friendly Fleabag, with Brown frequently addressing the audience mid-conversation and cleverly weaving an already empowering storyline with feminist lessons. While Mycroft can feel a bit like a misogynistic caricature at times, the film enjoys poking fun at its own world, Enola repeatedly drawing him for the ignorant and angry cartoon that he is. Scenes between Enola and Sherlock are particularly enjoyable, with Sherlock recognising her as an equal in the world of detective work but also growing to realise he should be more involved in her life. It is most likely this emotional pull that angered the Arthur Conan Doyle estate, suing Netflix over the film’s exploration of Sherlock’s sentimental side. However, this seems unfair in light of the journey he takes, even having his male privilege checked when he claims to not care for politics. Besides, Sherlock is not the main character, and it is through Brown’s engaging and precocious performance that gives the film its earnest warmth.
The interspersing of animation interacting with Enola’s own wacky yet confident plan to find her mother is ingeniously used to stir some chuckles, yet director Harry Bradbeer knows when to raise the stakes in genuinely crucial scenes. In particular, the relationship between Enola with Lord Tewkesbury (Louis Partridge) is sweet yet not all-encompassing: like the anagram of her namesake, Enola can not only do just fine alone, but excel. While this message is powerful to any child, it is a great message for young girls which encourages and affirms being confident in your abilities and being strong-willed – it is a film I would have loved to have seen growing up, but immensely enjoyed watching it now as we all need a source of empowerment now and then.
This film isn’t logistically perfect, yet is so charming and important that it can be easily overlooked in favour of its style and themes. With room left to explore more of the world of Enola Holmes, it is entirely possible that we could see a whole new adventure – and one that would no doubt be heavily welcomed.
Enola Holmes, directed by Harry Bradbeer, is available to stream now via Netflix, Certificate 12.