The Sherlock Holmes character has captivated society for decades, ever since Sir Arthur Conan Doyle introduced the character in the 1887 novel A Study in Scarlet. In the 2020 Netflix film Enola Holmes, however, the central figure isn’t the famous detective. Rather, his younger sister Enola takes center stage.
Based on The Enola Holmes Mysteries series by Nancy Springer, Enola Holmes begins with the eponymous heroine (Stranger Things star Millie Bobby Brown, who FINALLY CAN ACT WITH HER NATIVE BRITISH ACCENT!) detailing her early years. Sherlock Holmes (Henry Cavill) and older brother Mycroft (Sam Claflin) quickly leave the Holmes home (Ferndell Hall). This leaves Enola with her intelligent, quirky mother Eudoria (Helena Bonham Carter, who was made for this role. A mysterious weird woman? SAY NO MORE!). Enola and Eudoria live alone, and Eudoria teaches Enola about classic literature, Jiu Jitsu, science, and many other things (shown impressively in a montage sequence at the film’s beginning.)
Enola wakes up on her sixteenth birthday to find Eudoria missing. Panicked, she calls for Mycroft and Sherlock (who haven’t seen her in years, and initially don’t recognize her) to return to help find out where she went. Within minutes, they decide to send her to a finishing school (to focus on her education, of course). Enola then discovers that Eudoria left a cypher for her. Finishing school is not meant to be. Enola cracks the code and sets off to London in order to find her.
From there, Enola gets into various misadventures and scrapes (and various costume changes!) along the way. Her quest to find her mother becomes entangled in the murder plot of the ridiculously named Viscount Tewkesbury (Louis Partridge). The scenes where Enola is the center are engaging and entertaining. The film becomes tedious when the focus is on Sherlock and Mycroft. Cavill is a dull Sherlock and even though he is nice to look at (at least according to my girlfriend, who watched with me), he is not a convincing detective. Claflin delivers a devious performance as Mycroft, yet Cavill’s listlessness weighs the film down. Sherlock has been played to great effect by Cumberbatch, RDJ, and many others. To see Cavill’s performance made me wistful for those performances.
The film’s MVP is the title heroine. Millie Bobby Brown shines in this role. Fans expecting the same classic Sherlock Holmes mysteries may be disappointed in this, but Millie as Enola Holmes gives us a performance that’s so much more than…elementary.