Movie Review

Well-paced, witty 'Enola Holmes' is a film the entire family can enjoy

Focusing on the less well-known adventures of Sherlock Holmes's younger sister, this Netflix movie is bound to birth sequels

04 October 2020 - 00:01
Millie Bobby Brown as the title character in 'Enola Holmes'.
Millie Bobby Brown as the title character in 'Enola Holmes'.
Image: Supplied

With spring busy springing and lockdown restrictions easing, parents can breathe a sigh of relief as they're finally able to take the kids outdoors - but if you do find yourself stuck inside with the young folks, Netflix's flashy new Sherlock Holmes universe adventure should keep you and them pleasantly occupied for a few hours.

Enola Holmes is a big-budget, all-star British-cast adaptation of the first in a 12-book series of YA novels by Nancy Springer. It gives a welcome feminist slant to the stuffy Victorian setting of Arthur Conan Doyle's original creation by focusing its attention on the less well-known adventures of Holmes's younger sister Enola (Stranger Things' Millie Bobby Brown).

With her father long dead and her elder brothers Mycroft (Sam Claflin) and Sherlock (Henry Cavill) having long ago left to make their fortunes in bustling London, Enola is raised by her eccentric, self-sufficient Bohemian mother, Eudoria (Helena Bonham Carter), who home-schools her in the arts of self-defence, puzzle-solving, science and all the things a young woman needs to know if she's to make her own way in the stuffy patriarchy of 19th-century Britain.

When Eudoria suddenly disappears, Enola feels betrayed and - as her name spelt backwards reveals - alone. She's determined to find her mother and with a little help from her brother Sherlock and no help from her brother Mycroft, she sets off on a rip-roaring adventure that will see her thrown into a world of backstabbing, political intrigue and the arms of the dashing and suitably bookish Lord Tewkesbury (Louis Partridge).

WATCH | 'Enola Holmes' trailer.

Springer's story only really relies on the Sherlock legend tangentially - Enola could just as well be who she is without the shadow of her famous detective brother - but the surname Holmes does help our young heroine out of several sticky situations.

A feminist theme gently bubbles underneath all of this adventure, and Netflix has been quick to capitalise on it - launching an advertising campaign around the world where statues of Enola were displayed alongside famous men to highlight the stories of their lesser known but equally talented sisters: Charles Dickens, Mozart, Thomas Hardy etcetera.

It's also obvious from the high-production values that the streaming service is looking to make Enola a strong, independent woman-centred franchise that will use the current social moment to its advantage.

Luckily, Brown is a charming and capable actress who manages to carry this fast-paced, witty and easy to like roller-coaster ride to its triumphant conclusion. She's as comfortable having a quick to-camera catch-up with the audience and working her way through mind-bending puzzles as she is kicking ass and saving her beau from the clutches of thugs.

Franchise fatigue will no doubt set in as the streaming service unrolls the inevitable sequels, but for now this introduction to the precocious, clever and independent lesser-known Holmes family member offers a well-paced, smart adventure for audiences of all ages that's got some pertinent things to say about stupid men and their blinkered prejudices against women.

• 'Enola Holmes' is on Netflix now.


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