A Fresh Take on the Holmes Family
Enola Holmes, Netflix’s newest addition Photo by |Flickr
By Saul De Leon
Enola Holmes is a delightful and intriguing addition to the lure of fascination that is the Sherlock Holmes family of movies. Director Harry Bradbeer is well known for his contribution in directing 11 episodes of the hit Amazon Prime series. He succeeded in expanding the Sherlock Holmes universe by taking the bold approach of shifting the spotlight away from Sherlock. A daring choice by the writers to remove the focus away from the iconic character which resulted in Millie Bobby Brown delivering one of her most captivating performances to date.
Bradbeer takes a light-hearted innocent approach to this film by creating a clear division between the bright-eyed extroverted personality of Holmes’ niece Enola, played by Brown, and contrasting that to the reserved introverted nature of Sherlock played by Henry Cavill. While the characters differ heavily on their approach in handling complex investigations, they share the unique but brilliant quality of natural detective instincts that the series is known for.
The film follows Enola as she guides us through her journey of searching for her mother, Eudoria Holmes, played by Helena Bonham Carter, who abruptly disappears and abandons Enola. Following her mother’s disappearance, Sherlock and Mycroft, played by Sam Claflin, are called back home to investigate and figure out what to do with Enola.
Mycroft takes charge of the situation and decides to send Enola to a finishing school for young ladies. This subsequently triggers Enola’s decision to go on her quest to find her missing mother. On her journey, she stumbles across a young boy, Viscount Tewksbury, played by Louis Partridge, the son of a powerful Lord in England, on a train to London. He is attacked on the train, and Enola saves him from being murdered.
Enola and Tewksbury find their way to London and part ways, but as Enola would find out later on, Tewksburys attempted murder ties hand in with her mother’s disappearance. This leads Enola on a perilous adventure of mystery and betrayal that allows her to carve her path of becoming a strong independent woman.
With the combination of CGI, set designs and beautiful cinematography, Enola Holmes is a gorgeously shot picture. The costumes and locations do a tremendous job of keeping the audience immersed in 19th century London with its chaotic but exciting and fast-paced nature.
Brown’s performance as Enola was touching and humorous. This role allowed her to shine outside of her in the critically acclaimed role, Eleven, in the hit Netflix series Stranger Things. Brown does a brilliant job building Enola from a sheltered girl who learned everything about the world from books and her mother into a daring but clever detective who can stand toe to toe with the great Sherlock Holmes.
Enola and Sherlock are similar in many ways, but unlike Sherlock, Enola is less awkward and likable in her interactions with other characters. Sherlock has trouble connecting with others and more often comes across as arrogant, showing off his brilliance. Sherlock, however, is already established as a detective and is seen as a legendary figure in England. Enola is seen as this mysterious child riding on the coat tail of her mythological brother.
It was clever of Bradbeer and the writers to create this division because it gets the audience wondering what qualities these two have in common. It is made clear that detective work is in their blood, and that is due to a large part of their mother, Eudoria. This helps explain why Sherlock is the way he is, a direction that previous adaptations have not explored.
Though Sherlock resents his mother, Enola is quite fond of her. Enola shares many of her mother’s qualities, which explains why Sherlock is so distant from Enola at the beginning of the film. Yet, by the end of the film, both Sherlock and Enola come to appreciate each other and see one another as equals. Neither is better but is special in their own way, which creates fascinating chemistry between the characters.
The main aspect that stood out in this film was its underlying theme of feminism. Throughout the film Enola is constantly pursued by her brother Mycroft, who tries to take her to a finishing school to teach Enola how to be a proper lady. But Enola is her mother’s child and never thought of these stringent stereotypes of 19th-century womanhood. Enola’s personality challenges the system and goes against the societal norms of this world. Unlike previous films that focused more on Sherlock’s investigation tropes, this film is more of a character study.
Themes like feminism tend to be pushed down our throats in films that have strong leading women. Enola Holmes doesn’t do this because the Holmes family is already unorthodox. The addition of Enola doesn’t change the dynamic but amplifies the qualities of these characters and builds on them. It is a seamless transition that was inevitable for this series and with strong performances from this stellar cast. The film shines, and it wouldn’t be a surprise if there are already talks of a sequel.