Sherlock Holmes’ younger sister gets her own adventure.
Enola Holmes (Millie Bobby Brown) is the youngest child of the Holmes family after her older brothers Mycroft (Sam Claflin) and Sherlock (Henry Cavill). Raised alone by her mother, Eudoria (Helena Bonham Carter), Enola is taught to be independent (particularly for a woman in the 1890s) and is educated in cryptography, strategy, and even martial arts. When her mother disappears, the older Holmes brothers attempt to send Enola to a finishing school under the abusive Miss Harrison (Fiona Shaw), but Enola escapes. In her flight, she encounters a young man who is revealed to be a missing Marquess, Viscount Tewkesbury (Louis Partridge) who is being pursued by a menacing man. The pair escape together before getting separated. Enola now wishes to find the Viscount as well as her mother while avoiding the eyes of the greatest detective in the world and his smarter older brother.
While I do read a number of Sherlock Holmes spin-offs, I don’t think I’ve read the source material which inspired this movie. I’ve heard that the books are better, but I can say that it is hard to write a character that can match Millie Bobby Brown’s portrayal. It’s not just that she does such a great job of portraying a smart outcast woman in Victorian England, it’s that she is unbelievably likeable. Even though her character often breaks the fourth wall and falls back on some overused tropes, she’s so charming that you don’t even care. A big strength is how much she can convey to the camera with just a look. Comedy, concern, caring, things that don’t begin with C. She also has great comic timing when she does her breaks and the deliveries of the lines in them, but she also nails the more somber emotional moments. It reminded me of Fleabag, something that wouldn’t have shocked me if I’d realized that Harry Bradbeer, the director of this film, was also the director of that show. Given the heavy feminist themes of both, I feel like this is almost the young persons’ introduction to the same humor that Phoebe Waller-Bridge brought to the screen. If they want to cast Waller-Bridge as an older Enola Holmes in a future movie (or as Irene Adler), I want everyone involved to know I will throw money at the screen with such force that Arthur Conan Doyle’s estate will feel it.
Henry Cavill portrays a different version of Sherlock Holmes than we usually see. He’s more grounded than Robert Downey, Jr.’s version and more human than Benedict Cumberbatch’s portrayal. He is still brilliant, but since he’s not the focus, it comes off almost more impressive because we just see him working things out in the background. He also seems more caring, possibly because this is the first version we’ve seen interacting with a family member who actually likes him. However, Sam Claflin’s portrayal of Mycroft, who is essentially the villain of the piece, stands at odds with most interpretations of the character. He’s a misogynist, a classist, and tends to shout loudly. Additionally, he’s often wrong, which is probably the biggest difference from the canonical version. But, I will say, he’s a fun villain, because he’s really just a representation of an archaic mindset and watching Enola rebel against it is cathartic to everyone’s inner teenager.
The actual mystery of the film is pretty great, particularly in watching Enola slowly unraveling it. She’s clearly brilliant, but she doesn’t have the practical experience of Sherlock Holmes, nor does she have the ability to operate independently, due to her status as a woman. She does a good job to try and overcome it, but often ends up just dressing as a boy to get by. Still, it’s fun to watch her work.
Overall, I really liked this movie, but now I need a movie with Phoebe Waller-Bridge as Irene Adler. I’m going to start #IreneWallerBridge on Twitter and see if anyone cares (they won’t).
If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All Time, Collection of TV Episodes, Collection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.
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