Updated: Sep 1, 2021
“Paint your own picture Enola. Don’t be thrown off course by other people. Especially men!”
If I had to describe the movie in one word, I’d call it ‘delightful’. It's a lighthearted adventure with undertones of addressing social issues. Although an overall entertaining film, the movie was less intriguing with no high-level mystery whatsoever which might disappoint the ones familiar with other Holmes-related works. The tone is playful rather than cerebral and the puzzles don’t get more complicated than anagrams and ciphers.
The script is light and witty, the cast slightly more diverse than you're likely expecting, which is a pleasant surprise. As the title character in “Enola Holmes,” Brown must shoulder all the responsibility that comes with the famous last name. Brown’s acting is nothing short of radiant here, displaying the same sort of mature presence and poise we’ve seen on the Netflix sci-fi series but also an engaging playful side and good comic timing. Without much of a mystery to solve, this young Holmes sometimes comes across more like a young Wonder Woman: intelligent and highly trained yet puzzled by this unfamiliar, unfair world of men. Enola notes that her name is “alone” spelled backwards, which is an attempt to point to the fact that women are perfectly capable of being on their own. And the attempt lands.
Sherlock played by Henry Cavill was a letdown, I’m sorry to say. It does not comport with the books' portrayal and feels wildly out-of-step with past interpretations of Arthur Conan Doyle's hero. Sherlock is, after all, cold, shrewd, impatient and famously tetchy. Cavill, in stark contrast, is ridiculously warm and empathetic, even tender. And the fact that he has the face of a sweet superman doesn’t help. The ultimate effect feels less like a radical re-interpretation and more like a misinterpretation. Sam Claflin makes a wonderful snooty, scheming Mycroft while Helena Bonham Carter as the thoroughly unorthodox mother was a well-cast. There is no Watson, no mention of him either, in fact, which was a bit disappointing but there is a Lestrade, played by Adeel Akhtar, bumbling away.
There is a rather unnecessary romantic subplot involving a young marquess played by Louis Partridge and comes off as one of the film's more formulaic YA components.
Enola Holmes is mildly engaging. The film’s true central conflict: the fight for female liberation in a patriarchal society that’s loath to evolve, never gets in your face. It makes a mark without making it seem forced. At over two hours, “Enola Holmes” does run a bit too long, though.
Agreed, the central mystery does not call for mind-blowing detective skills nor is there a sense of real danger, but this is an enjoyable watch and during such pressing times, a heartwarming film like this just might be something many of us might need.