Enola Holmes (2020) movie review
Based on the novel by Nancy Springer, this adventure film follows the titular Enola Holmes, sister of Sherlock and Mycroft Holmes, as she sets out on her own adventure after her mother disappears. Along the way she soon discovers a strange mystery surrounding a high class boy she meets. The screenplay was adapted by Jack Thorne (Wonder, 2017) and directed by Fleabag producer/director Harry Bradbeer.
Where to begin? Enola Holmes felt like it a high bar set for me. It could be because it feels like the biggest film since Tenet (and not just because both films remind you what their title is spelled backwards). Or perhaps it is the connection to the more prestigious adaptations of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s works. It certainly was not the trailer that got my hopes up, with a dizzying blend of styles and lack of Henry Cavill. As it turns out, the dizzying blend of styles and lack of Henry Cavill are among the many problems here, as Enola Holmes enters the scene as a mixed bag entirely.
When solving the curious case of what went wrong with Enola Holmes, we see that many grievances stem from the story itself. Now perhaps the novel has narration, but if it does, it certainly works better than shattering the fourth wall as often as Eleven does. This goes from quirky to annoying to unnecessary rather quickly, with little to no payoff in the end aside from being able to quickly plow through backstory and exposition. There are ways around this that the film simply does not employ, perhaps because they are not as unique. Unique or not, there is nothing like a constant reminder that your protagonist is talking to you.
The rest of the stylistic choices I could probably get behind. I didn’t mind the faster pacing, witty writing, and showy editing, despite also having no payoff. The opening to Daniel Pemberton’s score felt all too modern, but the rest of soundtrack was to wonderfully energetic without losing that detective feel that I could easily forgive it. If I am being totally honest, I have already listened to it a few times…
The performances were a bit of a mixed bag for me as well. On the one hand, we have Millie Bobby Brown, Henry Cavill, and Adeel Akhtar. Enola Holmes was not the most likable character, but Millie Bobby Brown does give it her all. Her energy and sincerity helps the audience dive into the character’s motivations despite having no emotional connection to them. Adeel Akhtar was a great Lestrade, and despite portraying the character more sympathetically than we are used to, Henry Cavill made me want the entire film to be about him. He offers a more human performance than we are used to seeing from the great detective, and in this film, it totally works.
On the other side of that coin, we have Sam Claflin, Helena Bonham Carter, Louis Partridge, and Burn Gorman. Gorman and Partridge had me very confused about their relationship early on, and throughout the film I kept waiting to learn more about why they were directed the way they were, as if some great twist were coming. The twist was that there was no twist I guess, and they each played their stereotypes with ease. Carter, who plays Eudoria Holmes, Enola’s mother, never had me caring about her, despite her limited screentime. This certainly plays more into the story, but I thought this charatcer could have been handled better. Finally there is Sam Claflin as Mycroft Holmes, who single-handedly had me bump this film’s rating down. Mycroft has never been a truly lovable character, but I have never seen him as villainous as Claflin plays him, with all the charm of a drunken World War II father.
What hurts the film for me the most is the disconnect I had with the story. Somewhere in the fast pacing I forgot to connect with the events that were being told to us. So when the film finally gets going, you have to catch up to invest in the characters and plot. I suppose in the end I did end up feeling more than no emotions (take in mind that one or two is more emotions than no emotions.) I think that had more to do with sitting back and figuring out that this film is barely about her mother. Enola Holmes does a terrible job advertising what the heart of the story is until the very end. Along the way it offers abrupt detours, a questionable focus on political themes of the late 1800s, and very little in the way of a clear character arc. By the end of the film we do get character development, but at the expense of the resolution to the story that kickstarted the film!
So while I didn’t hate Enola Holmes, I never grew to like it all that much. It has some fun moments, entertaining sequences, and in the end some strengths in quality. Several of the performances are strong, and Henry Cavill steals every scene he is in. The score is fun and energetic, and the pacing never drops the ball, even when the story does. However when the story does forget what setup and payoff are, it kills the momentum of the film. Tack on some rather annoying style choices and a few performances that aren’t very subtle and you end up with a very confusing tone throughout. I was certainly more entertained than I expected to be by the end of the film based on the beginning, so I can’t say that Enola Holmes is not worth the watch. Just, don’t sign back up for Netflix just because of this. 6/10.
So Enola Holmes? Did you see it? What did you think? And what is your favorite Sherlock Holmes film? Be sure to leave a like or a comment below and let us know! And if you liked this review and you want to read more, let us know what you want to read next!
-review by Ryan Prince, which backwards is spelled Ecnirp Nayr. Yeah wouldn’t read too much into that…