Based on the https://www.goodreads.com/series/42968-enola-holmesnovels by Nancy Springer, Netflix’s release of Enola Holmes is a young adult romp of fun, mystery, and empowerment. Millie Bobby Brown is a treasure, as most of Stranger Things fans can loudly attest. Ahead is a spoiler free review of the movie.
The story plot, according to Netflix:
While searching for her missing mother, intrepid teen Enola Holmes uses her sleuthing skills to outsmart big brother Sherlock and help a runaway lord.
Enola launches the movie by breaking the fourth wall and speaking directly to the audience. As her name is “alone,” spelled backwards, Enola’s readiness to engage the audience in this manner makes sense and sets the tone of the film. A young woman navigating the world, well, alone and independently, despite her more famous older brothers. It would seem, in the first 15 minutes of the film, told with flashbacks to Enola’s happy life with her unconventional mother, played by the amazing and brilliant, Helena Bonham Carter, the Holmes brothers are absent, having set off in the world and not looking back to the little sister they left behind.
This aspect of the story intrigued me and raised the question: Why doesn’t the men, Sherlock, and Mycroft, love their mother enough to visit and engage with her? Surely, she raised them as well as she raised Enola. The women, mother and sister, were abandoned by both men, after the father’s death, as if nothing more than dolls placed back in the dollhouse and left to rot.
It isn’t surprising that when Mycroft is forced back to his home due to his mother’s disappearance, Enola’s appearance, and behavior, is immediately offensive. She is counter to everything Mycroft values and he seeks to scrub those non-traditional features from Enola as soon as possible, fetching a harsh boarding school matron to “make her presentable.” The boarding school uniforms are reminiscent of those in The Handmaid’s Tale with the vibrant red being swapped out for somber, mirthless black. The theme of control and subservience are also intertwined with the idea of breaking free of those bonds and obtaining freedom. Those beliefs of freedom begin with women getting the right to vote. A well-timed message during our current challenging times.
Mycroft’s bitterness is understood when viewed with the lens that he represents the Victorian male ideals of the time. He is furious when he learns his mother had used the money he sent for her own ideas and doing and not for the customary things she said she needed the money for (i.e. gardener, governess, etc.)
Mycroft chides Sherlock, “You never cared for her [meaning Enola] before.”
Sherlock, the logical character created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, is portrayed by Henry Canvil. This version of Sherlock is much more subdued and more emotional than Cumberbatch’s more recent portrayal. He’s less animated as well, but again, this movie isn’t about him. Over the course of the movie, he is forced by Enola’s drive and genius to acknowledge that his little sister is a force to be reckoned with and not as much an “unbroken wild thing,” Mycroft insists she is.
Back to Eudoria, Enola’s mother, emerges as a feminist. She teaches her daughter not how to be a lady, but how to be a woman in a world rapidly changing. Eudoria is an activist in the suffrage movement in England. The idea that she would be involved in terrorist activities is a clever note and ones that wrinkle Mycroft’s polished presence. It does seem at odds with the cool, calculating personality and emotional detachment Sherlock is renowned for displaying.
As I said, this movie belongs to Enola, and Millie Bobby Brown’s portrayal of her is not stop fun and absolutely brilliant. Millie’s facial expressions seal the deal. Eudoria spent more time shaping her daughter than she did her sons. So many tropes are overturned in this film. I won’t spoil them here, but the theme of woman power and empowerment doesn’t just reside in the suffrage underpinnings, but with Enola herself.
We find England mired at the crossroads between the staunch collar of history and the bright possibility that comes with change. One character remarks that they should remained focused on what is (tradition) and not on what could be.
Yet, it is “what could be,” that Enola’s mother has not only believed in (as evident by how she raises Enola and what she teaches her daughter), but also by her actions of meeting with women who want to invoke change in England for women. Enola then is able to utilize her intellect as well as her physical attributes she learned to forge her own way in the world, independent of her famous brothers and, by movie’s end, of her own mother. Enola is her own person, and in charge of her future.
The message couldn’t be timelier.
The future is up to us!
Looking for more unconventional Sherlock Holmes stories?
Try An Improbable Truth: Paranormal Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, https://amzn.to/3mPc8nj
Try Curious Incidents: More Paranormal Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, https://amzn.to/367F1VD