A Holmes film where the focus isn’t on Sherlock? Well, you’ve caught my attention. This fresh take on a Holmes detective film sees the focus shifted to Sherlock’s younger sister Enola, who embarks on a journey of self-discovery where she unexpectedly unravels a conspiracy shrouded in danger and intrigue.
With an intriguing premise and a stacked cast behind it, Enola Holmes had everything going for it. As the film begins, it’s made very clear that it’s going to have a much more playful tone with Millie Bobby Brown’s Enola at the forefront. This tone is what makes the movie fun, regardless of how the story is progressing at any given moment. It’s a tone driven by the charisma of Millie’s performance and the fourth wall-breaking moments that appear consistently throughout the film. It’s these little moments, these sparks of creative joy that give the film its unique identity. They’re fun, playful and draw the viewer into the story, making them feel like they’re part of the team solving the mysteries at hand. This tone remains consistent the whole way through, which is fantastic. It doesn’t become any more serious or too silly throughout its journey, but it does weave in some nice themes centred around self-identity and coming of age.
When it comes to the narrative, all is well for the first half (or so) of the film. It kicks things off with introducing this world of characters and the relationships there are, and does so in an exciting way that locks the viewer in. From there, once the central mystery gets underway, it’s like embarking on an adventure where you’re the detective and you can’t wait to uncover the secrets of what’s going on. The time spent focusing on the mystery introduced early on is thrilling, fun and integral to the growth of Enola. These moments make for what could be a fantastic detective adventure, however as the film goes on, it gradually becomes more and more muddled, delving deeper and deeper into a mystery that is nowhere near as interesting as what was initially being set up.
As new characters get thrown into the mix and completely new plot elements are introduced, the focus of the story, although still following Enola, becomes a bit of a mess. For the entire second and third acts, it feels like Enola (and the audience) really want to go and solve ‘mystery A’ but the writers really want to explore ‘mystery B’ and are dragging everyone along with them. The characters in this area of the story aren’t engaging, the actual mystery isn’t intriguing and what should have been a brief subplot turns into the core narrative. It’s incredibly disappointing since the film was heading in the right direction, getting better and better until it deviates from its course and never really returns to it. It makes the whole story feel rather anti-climactic, especially when considering how it began on such a high note. The one through-line across both narratives that stops the film from becoming just mediocre is, of course, Millie Bobby Brown.
Millie Bobby Brown is not only the star of the show, but she is what makes the film unique. If this hadn’t had Millie at the forefront, it would have been lost to the endless Netflix library… even with the other cast members. Not only is Millie’s name a big draw, but it’s her electric charisma and loveable qualities that make her character an instant favourite. She embodies the kick-ass fun of the film in a way that only she could. She builds a character, of the course of this narrative, that could very easily become a fan-favourite and lead to a number of sequels. She shares some damn great scenes alongside Henry Cavill, who plays Sherlock in this film. He does a fantastic job playing Sherlock, pulling off the charisma and distinct attitude of the infamous detective in a great way. Some of the best scenes of the film are between Enola and Sherlock, predominantly because their both very charismatic and their character share a number of similarities. Forget Sherlock and Watson, give me an Enola and Sherlock detective tale any day.
Helena Bonham Carter has a limited role in the film as Enola’s mother but her scenes are some of the more interesting, and that’s not just down to her character. There’s this aura that she brings to her character that makes you intrigued by her quirks or unusual traits, and it plays into the mystery element quite well. Then you have Sam Claflin, who plays Mycroft Holmes, a performance that I didn’t have any issues with but a character that I did. I’m sure his performance is as directed, designed to make the character of Mycroft as unpleasant as possible, and he does so very well. The character is just too despicable and too unlikeable to the point of becoming a frustrating part of the film whenever he shows up. The young Louis Partridge has a role in the film that I, for one, wanted absolutely nothing to do with. His character felt so lifeless and incredibly uninteresting that when you put him next to Millie’s performance it’s very clear you’re looking at two entirely different classes of actor. The character doesn’t improve, in fact it’s his arc that drives the film further away from reaching its potential.
In the end, Enola Holmes is a pretty decent film, that I’d say could even be called a good film overall. It does a lot of things really well, from just being very well shot with some fun cinematography to incorporating some good fourth-wall breaking moments. Millie Bobby Brown is the heart and soul of the story, with her electric personality and contagious charisma driving and dictating the playful tone. However, she can only do so much. The narrative is a let-down, straying further away from the interesting mystery with each passing minute and delving deeper into an area that isn’t even slightly intriguing. I do hope we see more from Enola and Sherlock Holmes going forward as this does have franchise potential.