Enola Holmes (2020)

Content by Tony Macklin. Originally published on October 9, 2020 @ tonymacklin.net.

Enola Holmes (now on Netflix) probably shouldn't work. But it does.

Its source is a young adult novel by Nancy Springer, who wrote a series of novels about Sherlock Holmes' young sister, who is a burgeoning sleuth herself.

Other writers - and film directors - have used Arthur Conan Doyle's characters as a springboard to further invention. One of the best is The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes (1970), directed by Billy Wilder and written by I.A.L. Diamond. Another memorable effort is The Seven-Per-Cent Solution (1976), directed by Herbert Ross and adapted by Nicholas Meyer from his novel.

Enola Holmes joins the group.

Enola Holmes is the tale of teenager Enola who lives alone with her mother Eudoria (Helene Bonham Carter). Her mother is an independent feminist who teaches her daughter how to prevail.

When her mother suddenly disappears on her 16th birthday, Enola decides to pursue her. She employs the lessons she learned from her mother. She winds up on a train headed for London. A young man (Louis Partridge) intrudes on her. He turns out to be Viscount Lord Tewksbury, who is on the lam. She realizes he is being pursued by a killer, and reluctantly helps him escape.

She doesn't want to be involved with his problems; she has problems of her own. So they separate. Eventually they meet again, but they face dire threats

Before that, her older brother Mycroft (Sam Clafin), who has no sympathy for her independence, sends her to a finishing school for girls in an attempt to make her a normal lady. Her other brother Sherlock (Henry Cavill) remains distant but aware. Eventually he becomes somewhat involved.

Enola would be an important opportunity for a woman director and a woman writer. A few scenes could use a woman's touch. But two males get the jobs. One is veteran television director Harry Bradbeer, and the other is writer Jack Thorne, who has written for stage, screen, radio and of course television.

This reminds me of the successful Canadian television series that ran for 13 seasons - Murdoch Mysteries. Like Enola Holmes, Murdoch Mysteries is based on the novels of a woman, Maureen Jennings. Unlike Enola Holmes the series Murdoch Mysteries has major creative input from women and deals effectively with their issues. Director Laurie Lynd has directed 19 episodes - 2nd most in the series. The best writer Carol Hays has written 24 episodes.

Bradbeer and Thorne do a solid job with Enola Holmes. Probably because of budget, the film doesn't include a climactic scene in Parliament. We only hear of it, which lacks impact. But the ambience in the film generally is evocative.

The best part of Enola Holmes is the three leads. Millie Bobby Brown is a fetching Enola - she captures her vital personality. She and Louis Partridge as the Viscount Lord have fitful chemistry. Helene Bonham Carter is engaging as the strong-willed Eudoria.

The casting does count on our suspension of disbelief. Both Bonham Carter and Cavill were born in May. Bonham Carter is 54, and Cavill is 37. In Enola Holmes - if their characters were the similar ages of the actors - it would seem Eudoria had Sherlock when she was 17. Since he is the younger brother, she had Mycroft when she was a child. But who's counting?

Unfortunately the original Arthur Conan Doyle characters are less effective. Henry Cavill as Sherlock lacks chemistry. He plays Sherlock as Clark Kent. Sam Clafin as Mycroft is a one-dimensional twit. But that's what the screenplay concocts.

But since spirited Millie Bobby Brown carries the film with aplomb, it delivers.

In Enola Holmes, there's a new Holmes in the hunt.

© 2000-2020 Tony Macklin