As cinemas slowly begin to reopen with the eventual release of Christopher Nolan’s new movie Tenet, many of us, like me, aren’t entirely convinced Nolan’s traditional approach to distribution is the best move in the current climate; fortunately streaming services, like Netflix, have us covered until the vaccine comes in, with their equivalent of a summer blockbuster, Enola Holmes. Starring Stranger Things’ Millie Bobby Brown in the title role, Enola Holmes tells the story of Sherlock Holmes’ socially isolated little sister who sets off on an adventure after her mother suddenly goes missing. Boasting a strong cast including Henry Cavill, Sam Claflin and Helena Bonham Carter, as well as, the BAFTA and Emmy winning director of Fleabag, Harry Bradbeer, Enola Holmes has a lot of promise, however, with a misguided story trajection, the film falls short of realizing its full potential.
The film opens with very strong character development and character dynamics as we are introduced to Bobby Brown’s Enola Holmes, a young girl raised in an isolated manor house by her mother Eudoria. The two are inseparable as we watch Eudoria shape Enola into the smart, independent woman she is when we meet her, which makes Eudoria’s disappearance all the more effective in making us care for Enola. As well as this, it is well established that Sherlock and Mycroft are very distant from Enola, simply walking past her at the train station when they first meet. With her mother missing and under Mycroft’s care, Enola is set to live in a boarding school for girls where she will be taught to be a “proper lady.” Like her name written backwards, Enola is all alone and set to have her independence stripped away, however hope is not lost, as she finds a set of clues her mother may have left for her in order to find her. And so Enola escapes into the night, following these potential clues on a quest to reunite herself with the woman that made her.
Now, this is a very exciting first act. The characters and their dynamics are well defined, the direction is fun and energetic, and most importantly, the stakes for our liable protagonist are high. I was gripped with this promise of a deeply personal mystery where Enola takes everything her mother has taught her in order to find and potentially save her from whatever may have taken her away. However, despite a particularly strong fight sequence, thanks in large part to the exceptional use of intercutting between the fight and Eudoria training Enola, sadly this isn’t the direction the film commits to. Whilst on her adventure, Enola encounters a young lord called Tewkesbury who is on the run from his family, as well as, a mysterious man who is trying to kill him. This secondary story lacks the motivation of the main one and is far too vague as it revolves around a critical reform bill that is never elaborated upon. I wouldn’t have too much of an issue with this lackluster story line if it hadn’t become the main story when Enola decides to prioritise saving Tewkesbury, thus putting finding her mother, the superior storyline, to one side until the very end of the movie. In doing this, the film loses its identity, as it decides to become the first film in a potential series rather than its own standalone movie.
Simply put, Enola Holmes is a film that’s first half is stronger than its second, due to it taking a uninspired narrative tangent. I don’t like to criticize a film on what I wish it could’ve been, however in this case, Enola Holmes actively pushes its strongest elements to one side in favor for a vaguer story line and an arbitrary will-they-won’t-they relationship between Enola and Tewkesbury. To make matters worse, the film forgets about Eudoria until the films epilogue in an unsatisfying ending aimed to leave space for sequels. This being said, Enola Holmes is an entertaining mystery movie that may not be as good or as smart as most Sherlock Holmes adaptations, but with a intriguing first half, a fun, quirky vibe and strong direction from Harry Bradbeer, Enola Holmes has potential that a sequel could potentially further realize.