Enola Holmes (2020) Review (550th Review)
NOW, WHERE TO BEGIN?
The game is afoot” is the classic moniker catchphrase that’s accompany with the fictional character of Sherlock Holmes. Created by Sir Author Conan Doyle, the character of Sherlock Holmes (and his residence 221B Baker Street in London, England) has enchanted readers and viewers alike, following the clever English detective (usually set in the Victorian era) as he solves cases and mysterious. The character has plenty of other friends and enemies along the way, including Dr. John Watson (Sherlock’s faithful companion assistant), his brother Mycroft, and Scotland yard’s Inspector Lestrad, Sherlock’s landlord Mrs. Hudson, and his longtime rival Professor James Moriarty. Sherlock Holmes has become a classic literary character for decades, translating beyond the writing page as been feature in other mediums and facets, including the realm of TV and movies like 1939’s The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, 1959’s The Hound of Baskerville, 1985’s Young Sherlock Holmes, 1986’s The Great Mouse Detective, 2009’s Sherlock Holmes, BBC’s crime drama TV show Sherlock (2010), 2018’s Sherlock Gnomes, and 2018’s Holmes & Watson. Now, a new spin on the old classic mystery tales comes to light as Netflix and director Harry Bradbeer present a new iteration the Holmes narrative with the release of Enola Holmes; based on the first book of the same name series by Nancy Springer. Is the “game afoot” for this new super sleuth incarnation or does it get lost within its own pull of mystery and intrigue?
Enola Holmes (Millie Bobbie Brown) has been raised by her other, Eudoria (Helena Bonham Carter), educating her in the ways of independence and intelligence to help make her a mighty force to the world. However, her sheltered life with her mother pales in comparsion to the efforts made by her brothers, the super sleuth detective, Sherlock (Henry Cavill), and government man, Mycroft (Sam Claflin). Unfortunately, Eudoria disappears one day; leaving Enola to wonder what became of her mother and sending Sherlock and Mycroft to return to their childhood home to assess the situation. As her legal guardian ward, Mycroft wants to put Enola into a finishing school run by Ms. Harrison (Fiona Shaw), trying to make a proper woman out of her unconventional mindset. However, Enola has a better plan, escaping to London to hunt for Eudoria, following clues she left behind. Distracting her on this mission is the Lord Tewksbury (Louis Partridge), a individual young man on the run with family issues, giving Enola someone to protect as she gets entangled with mystery intrigue and political unrest.
THE GOOD / THE BAD
If that opening sounds a bit familiar its because it (along with a portion of this paragraph) was said during my review for Holmes & Watson, for both paragraphs get my point across as to what I want to say on this subject. So….as mentioned in my 2018 review….while I’ve been a fan of reading books and all things literary, I’ve actually never read any of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s works on Sherlock Holmes (or any other author that has built upon the Sherlock Holmes mythos). And yet, despite that, I’ve actually gotten a good understanding of the character and the persona that’s usually accustom to London’s greatest detective. Probably my first “taste” of the Sherlock Holmes was from Disney’s 1986 animated film The Great Mouse Detective, setting up the classic “sherlock” persona and introducing me to Doyle’s character (albeit through animated creatures). Of course, I’ve seeing plenty of other iterations and parodies with Sherlock Holmes, with some just recently like Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes (love Robert Downey Jr and Jude Law as Sherlock and Watson) as well as the BBC show Sherlock (Benedict Cumberbatch is excellent as Sherlock Holmes on that). Suffice to say, that the very nature of Sherlock Holmes is something of a mixture of cheekiness and cleverness and that’s something that a fictional character (on whatever platform) is always something worth watching and / or reading about. At least, I personally think so (I’ll never get old of the character). However, seeing 2018’s Holmes & Watson (a deplorable mess of a film) might prove that theory wrong.
Naturally, this brings me back around to talking about Enola Holmes, a 2020 drama feature that was set to be released by Warner Bros. Pictures and to be theatrically released in April of 2020. Naturally, with the events of the COVID-19 pandemic going on, Warner Bros. decided to forgo a theatrical release for the film and sell the project off to Netflix, which (in turn) set a new release date for the movie on September 23rd, 2020. I honestly can say that I really didn’t hear much about this movie…. not even during its announcement / production stage as it went completely under my radar. So, I was a little bit surprised when I saw the film’s official trailer for Enola Holmes of which I do have to say that I was a little bit intrigued. As I’ve mentioned in several reviews…. I’m a sucker for period pieces, so I was definitely on-board to see a movie like this with an aspect of a “masterpiece” esque visual look to the project. Plus, I was a bit interested to see what the movie was gonna do with the whole Sherlock Holmes mythos. So, while I was intrigued to see Enola Holmes, I decided to hold off on seeing it as I was a little bit busy with work. Thus….I finally have some free time and decided to check out the movie. And what did I think of it? Well, it was okay. While the film is made with an attention to detail within the veins of many of the narratives of Sherlock Holmes that have come and gone, Enola Holmes just seems to struggle differentiate itself, despite its strong performance from Millie Bobby Brown. What’s presented is good, but nothing new.
Enola Holmes is directed by Harry Bradbeer, whose previous directorial works include such projects like Fleabag, Killing Eve, and Sugar Rush. Approaching the subject, Bradbeer seems to capture the essence of the Sherlock Holmes mythos; making the feature have a greater sense of mystery and super sleuthing as he shapes Enola into a sort of “next generation” frame work, with making the film’s story focus on Enola Holmes character as the central protagonist. Sure, both Sherlock and Mycroft are there, but to make the film’s story center around their sister seems a bit interested as well as speaking to the modern times of central female lead characters being strong and independent women rather than simply damsel-in-distress. That’s not to say that Bradbeer makes the film unrecognizable as a Sherlock Holmes-esque endeavor as there’s plenty sleuthing and mystery to be had and wraps it up in a big conspiracy theory that Enola and company have to unravel. Plus, much like several others projects in both movies and TV series, Bradbeer utilizes the “fourth wall break” in Enola Holmes; making Enola narrating the feature and speaking to us directly for few scenes and, while this isn’t quite original, it is quite amusing / entertaining to be used.
Of the feature’s presentation, Enola Holmes looks pretty good; showcasing a cinematic take on Victorian England with a sense of period piece nuances. From stately manors in the countryside to the streets of London, the background layout and locations for the movie are solid across the board and definitely feels theatrically appropriate to the film’s setting in a “masterpiece” esque aspects / nuances. Thus, the film’s “behind the scenes” team, including Michael Carlin (production design), Lisa Chugg (set decorations), Consolata Boyle (costume designs), and the various members of the art direction should be commended for their efforts made to “visually” brings this movie to life with plenty of attention of detail. Speaking of visuals, the feature’s cinematographer (Giles Nuttgens) does a pretty good job in making some slick camera angles to make the movie “pop” (visually speaking). Lastly, the film’s score, which was composed by Daniel Pemberton, compliments the film in a good way; harmonizing its musical composition with many of the feature’s visual scenes….be it action or character dialogue moments.
Unfortunately, Enola Holmes isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be and suffers several pieces of criticisms throughout. Don’t get me wrong…. its entertaining, but just never fully lives up to its potential. How so? Well, for starters, the main problem with the movie is that it doesn’t do anything out of the normal for a Sherlock Holmes feature. Yes, the narrative main plot point of switching from Sherlock to Enola as the main protagonist character is quite different, but, more or less, the overall structure of everything being presented is pretty much a straightforward Sherlock Holmes mystery adventure. While that might be partially good for fans (as mentioned above), I felt that the movie just seems like a generic Sherlock Holmes adaptation. I mean other similar projects did something a little bit different, including the BBC Sherlock TV series presenting the story’s setting in modern times or Guy Ritchie’s utilizing his own creative directorial styles in his two Sherlock Holmes features. Bradbeer’s Enola Holmes just seems to be a quite generic mystery with the whole “same old, same old” nuances of a Sherlock Holmes adventure of running around or gathering clues. What’s presented is adequate, but it feels pretty overwrought with a lot of the standard tropes of a Sherlock Holmes mystery and nothing relatively new. Thus, Bradbeer just seems to be “going through the motions” of making a female Sherlock Holmes endeavor and nothing more.
Additionally, the film’s script, which was adapted from Nancy Springer’s novel and penned by Jack Thorne, seems a bit convoluted. I’m not saying that its something complexed or any type of “head scratcher”, but there are too many storylines threads being interwoven to fit into a roughly two hours feature film. Thus, some narrative beats and plot threads kind of get sidetracked for large chunks of the movie’s runtime as well as feeling empty as if some ideas were left on the writing room cutting floor. This also results in the film having several pacing issues throughout, which makes the film have an unbalanced feeling from time to time. Also, majority of Enola Holmes seems to be a “pain by numbers” in a formulaic way, with neither Bradbeer or Thorne able to capture enticing excitement within its story or even its characters, which are lacking in most areas and feel a bit underdevelopment for this most part.
The cast in Enola Holmes has plenty of recognizable faces throughout the feature (whether in major or minor role capacities), so it’s definitely fun in this regard. However, some of the characterizations are either rather bland and generically written (in regards to both the mystery movies as well as Sherlock Holmes tropes) and some of the acting talents don’t seem quite polished. Who actually shines the best in the movie is the film’s main protagonist character of Enola Holmes, who is played by actress Millie Bobby Brown. Known for her roles in Stranger Things, Intruders, and Godzilla: King of the Monsters, Brown has certainly become a rising young actress and furthers cements that notions in this particular feature film; capable of handling herself in the chief title role of the feature. She certainly embodies the ideals of what Enola is; capturing the cleverness and well-equipped (mentally and physically) of the character. Again, the big downside is that Enola is basically just like Sherlock (just in girl form), so there isn’t much to the character beyond a gender swap. Still, Brown is perfect in the role and is perhaps the most memorable character / actor in the entire film. As a side-note, actor Louis Partridge (Paddington 2 and Medici) does a decent job in the role of Tewkesbury, a young lord and love interest to Enola. He fits what the movie needs from him, but doesn’t really have a memorable performance.
Enola Holmes does feature recognizable names within its cast as the larger supporting players do help elevate the movie; lending their theatrical weight to the project. However, due to their secondary involvement with the film, several of these characters suffer from being flat and thinly sketched, which is strange because these characters I’m talking about are some of Doyle’s most famous creation in the Sherlock Holmes tales. Naturally, I’m speaking about the characters of Sherlock and Mycroft Holmes, who are played in the movie by actors Henry Cavill (Man of Steel and The Witcher) and Sam Claflin (The Hunger Games: Catching Fire and Me Before You). Unfortunately, both of these characters are pretty bland in the movie, despite their literary iconic status; finding Cavill too “wooden” in the role to play the titular Sherlock persona and Claflin too “hammy” as Mycroft (playing the somewhat antagonist obstacle in the movie in a few scenes). Interestingly, who fares the best of these characters has the least amount of screen time, with actress Helena Bonham Carter (The Crown and Sweeny Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street) as the mother of the three Holmes siblings, Eudoria Holmes. Compare to Cavill and Claflin, Carter outshines them and leaves a bit more memorable impression on the character, which (again) is sad for Sherlock and Mycroft fans out there.
The rest cast, including actor Burn Gorman (TURN: Washington’s Spies and Pacific Rim) as Linthorn, actor Adeel Akhtar (The Big Sick and Victoria & Abdul) as Lestrade, actress Susan Wokoma (Porters and Year of the Rabbit) as Edith, actress Fiona Shaw (Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone and True Blood) as Miss Harrison, actress Claire Rushbook (Don’t Forget the Driver and Temple) as Mrs. Lane, actress Hattie Morahan (Beauty and the Beast and Mr. Holmes) and actor David Bamber (Valkyrie and Rome) as Tewkesbury’s mother and uncle Lady Tewkesbury and Sir Whimbrel Tewkesbury, and actress Frances de la Tour (Into the Woods and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire) as Tewkesbury’s grandmother (i.e. The Dowager), play minor supporting characters in the movie and, while many only have a handful of scenes (two or three at most), these acting talents certainly risen to occasion and gives solid performances across the board.
A new twist on an old classic begins as Sherlock’s sisters taps into her super sleuth prowess to solve a mystery in the movie Enola Holmes. Director Harry Bradbeer’s latest film takes an interesting stab into the Sherlock Holmes mythos; drawing from Springer’s novels to create a somewhat “new take” on detective work from the fictional Holmes (yet her sister) for a new generation. While the costumes and set-pieces are well-mannered (and on-full display) as well as the intent to create something new (with Brown delivering a strong performance in the lead role), the movie just feels like the same old detective Holmes work from previous / similar projects; offering nothing particular innovated or creative to the ongoing tale of Sherlock Holmes fiction. Personally, I thought that this movie was okay. It held my attention and was decent enough, but I don’t think it’s as spectacular as many critics are making it out to be. So, my recommendation for this movie is an “iffy choice” as some will like it, while others will think of it as a “meh” endeavor. With critical praise, the idea of tackling other Enola Holmes movies has surfaced online for a continuation film series is quite possible. I just hope there some ingenuity and creative styles that these potential installments undertake to the narrative. Regardless if those future chapters to come light, Enola Holmes is a somewhat new take on an old classic that sort hits the “refresh” button, but never fully follows through with its execution.
Also, a personal side note, Enola Holmes is my 550th movie review since I’ve started blogging. This is truly a huge and celebratory milestone for me! I wanted give a special thank you to all my readers, followers, and fellow bloggers for reading my movie reviews and giving me this platform to share (with you guys) my views on cinematic tales.
3.1 Out of 5 (Iffy Choice)
Released On: September 23rd, 2020
Reviewed On: November 21st, 2020
Enola Holmes is 121 minutes and is rated PG-13 for some violence