Enola Holmes

 

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Surprisingly, Netflix delivers a clever, feminist, self-aware and enormously entertaining riff on the Sherlock Holmes brand. 

 
Enola Holmes

Tomboy tomfoolery: Millie Bobby Brown

 

You learn something every day. Apparently Sherlock Holmes had a younger sister. As chronicled in Nancy Springer’s six Enola Holmes Mysteries (2006-2010), Enola was a spirited, independent and resourceful problem solver, every bit as astute as her much older brothers Sherlock and Mycroft. Brought up by her mother in a spectacular house in the English countryside, Enola was home schooled in the sciences, martial arts, archery, sport and, from a ridiculously early age, chess. She was also a rabid reader and devoured the works of Shakespeare, Thackeray, John Locke and, germanely, the literature of Mary Wollstonecraft. Her mother was everything to her and then, one day, she vanished.

 

Much of Enola’s background is related direct to camera by the film’s 16-year-old producer, Millie Bobby Brown, who plays Enola, as she cycles in her bloomers pell-mell through the fields and lanes of Victorian England. If ever a narrative was given a propulsive start, this is it, as the film’s 122 minutes speed along at the rate of knots, aided by Adam Bosman’s athletic editing and Daniel Pemberton’s sweeping score. Indeed, Enola Holmes has a lightness of touch characteristic of its helmer, Harry Bradbeer, who directed Fleabag and two episodes of the original Killing Eve. And like Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Millie Bobby is not above arching an eyebrow directly at the viewer and, on one occasion, asking us “Do you have any ideas?”

 

Fearless, ungainly and feisty, Enola (‘Alone’ spelled backwards, the better to reinforce the girl’s independence) is a delightful heroine, winningly played by the young actress-producer with a mischievous bravado. At the time – 1900 – women were far from independent and Jack Thorne’s screenplay artfully blends fiction with history as it transpires that Enola’s mother, Eudoria (Helena Bonham Carter, of Suffragette fame), is involved in the suffragette movement. Sherlock (Henry Cavill, adding yet another iconic character to his portfolio), is too privileged, white and male to take such silliness seriously, giving the Holmesian mythos a pertinent, modern twist. And, of course, as Nancy Springer’s novels are aimed at young adult girls, Enola outwits her brother more than once.

 

The film is rich with incidental comic detail and at times it is (what some critics might describe) “laugh-out-loud funny.” There are wonderful supporting turns from the likes of Frances de la Tour and Fiona Shaw, while old Londinium is brought vividly to life with state-of-the-art CGI. It’s hard to believe that with so many re-inventions of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s immortal detective – from Gene Wilder's The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes' Smarter Brother (1975) to CBS TV’s modern update Elementary – that there was room for yet another: and one that manages to be so constantly inventive, touching and ticklish. More please.

 

JAMES CAMERON-WILSON

 

Cast: Millie Bobby Brown, Sam Claflin, Adeel Akhtar, Fiona Shaw, Frances de la Tour, Louis Partridge, Burn Gorman, Susie Wokoma, Henry Cavill, Helena Bonham Carter, Claire Rushbrook, David Bamber, Hattie Morahan, Sofia Stavrinou, Ellie Haddington, Paul Copley, David Kirkbride, Mary Roscoe, Esther Coles.

 

Dir Harry Bradbeer, Pro Millie Bobby Brown, Paige Brown and Mary Parent, Alex Garcia, Ali Mendes, Screenplay Jack Thorne, Ph Giles Nuttgens, Pro Des Michael Carlin, Ed Adam Bosman, Music Daniel Pemberton, Costumes Consolata Boyle.

 

Legendary Pictures/PCMA Productions-Netflix.

122 mins. UK/USA. 2020. Rel: 23 September 2020. Available on Netflix. Cert. 12.