Enola Holmes a Quirky, Feminist Reimagining of Holmes Tradition

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Enola Holmes

There have been numerous takes on the Holmes legacy left by creator Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, to have included books, television shows, movies, and even a incorporated inot the canonical universes of both DC Comics and Marvel Comics.

ENOLA HOLMES was, perhaps, an inevitablity. Having already seen takes at Mycroft Holmes (THE ADVENTURES OF SHERLOCK HOLMES' SMARTER BROTHER), the idea of a Holmes sister, while explored disturbingly in the final series of SHERLOCK, is a concept ripe with opportunity for the YA market, and one well capitalized on by author Nancy Springer.

The Netflix movie, starring Millie Bobby Brown as the titular Enola, is an adaptation of Springer's first Enola book, "The Case of the Missing Marquess." In this story, we first meet Enola -- the name an anagram for "Alone," her mother having had a penchant for wordplay -- being raised in seclusion and home-schooled by the widowed Mrs. Holmes (Helena Bonham Carter). When Mrs. Holmes goes missing, Enola takes it upon herself to run away and look for her, much against the wishes of her older brothers, distant Sherlock (Henry Cavill) and misanthropic Mycroft (Sam Claflin) to whom the Holmes estate (and Enola's care) has been left. In the course of her departure, bolstered by a sum of cash she found her mother had hidden for her, Enola makes the acquaintance of another runaway -- teenaged Lord Tewkesbury (Louis Partridge), on the run from responsibility of being a member of Parliament's House of Lords. There are several people looking for Tewkesbury, and it quickly becomes apparent that at least one of them prefers he be found dead.

The remainer of the film sees Enola abandon the search for her mother when the assassin comes for her, believing her to still be in the company of Tewkesbury. Enola has to find the young lord and protect him, because saving the defenseless is something that drives her. That, and the need to be her own woman in a Victorian era rife with patriarchal entitlement.

And, yes, that's the not-so-subtle political plot point of ENOLA HOLMES. Mrs. Holmes feminist teaches (and, possibly, terrorist leanings) are coupled with an upcoming suffrage vote in Parliament. Tradition has a strong grip on those who would see Britain remain as it is, including Tewkesbury's grandmother (France De la Tour), and Enola's oldest brother Mycroft, portrayed so antagonistically in this outing as to be nothing less than an abusive villain himself. Sherlock, while certainly not given to emotion, at least is shown to have a familial attachment to his sister and concerned for her well-being, while Mycroft would simply have her be dragged back home and placed into remedial finishing school studies under the strict Miss Harrison (Fiona Shaw).

In conceit, ENOLA HOLMES is, largely, a well-done adventure, fit for family viewing, although it's given to the annoying habit of addressing the audience directly. While this is often acceptable during openings and endings as a narrative device, Brown's character has Enola frequently do this during the adventure, looking directly into the camera to break the fourth wall.

ENOLA HOLMES debuts September 23 on Netflix streaming service.


4.0 / 5.0