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'Enola Holmes' Finally Arrives on Netflix
September 23, 2020  | By David Hinckley  | 1 comment

It would almost require Sherlock Holmes to track the path by which Enola Holmes wound its way to television.

Or on second thought, forget Sherlock. The new film Enola Holmes, which premieres on Netflix Wednesday, does just fine with the sleuthing services of its title character, Sherlock's younger sister Enola.

Enola Holmes is a spirited, upbeat two-hour romp introducing TV viewers to Enola, who is already familiar to readers of the Nancy Springer book series where she was born.

The film, which has a hint of rom-com alongside the detective part, is as much fun as the books. It unveils Enola (Millie Bobby Brown, top) as an energetic 14-year-old who is still, in some ways, 14 but also has much of her celebrated older brother's skill at observation, deduction, and analysis.

She applies those skills here to find her mother, Eudoria (Helena Bonham Carter), who mysteriously disappears one day, leaving Enola disoriented and adrift – but quite confident that, contrary to the bleak conclusions of some local law enforcement folks, she is still alive and well.

Under the circumstances, Enola is forced to reconnect with Sherlock (Henry Cavill) and her other older brother Mycroft (Sam Claflin), who are decades older than she and whom she hasn't seen in many years. Now, given her age, they have become her reluctant guardians.

This is a learning curve for the brothers. Sherlock has been off establishing himself as a world-renowned detective, and Mycroft seems to have concentrated on becoming grumpy and impatient. This does not prepare them for Enola, who has spent these years under Eudoria's tutelage learning the skills she will need to maneuver through a world hostile to women in general and even more hostile to women who dare to get ahead in that world. This includes – spoiler alert – a form of martial arts.

Mycroft finds Enola a nuisance and arranges to shoo her away to an awful "finishing school." Sherlock takes a bemused liking to her and provides a bit of help in her search, though she prefers to keep some distance.

They interact enough to discover that she sometimes notices things he does not, which sparks an unspoken and rivalry. It's generally cordial, but it's definitely something Sherlock notices, and it enlivens the whole story considerably.

Sherlock here isn't exactly the Sherlock we've seen in a dozen other incarnations, including the manic character recently played by Benedict Cumberbatch.

In contrast to most of those others, the Sherlock in Enola Holmes shows more than occasional flashes of empathy and emotion. The estate of Arthur Conan Doyle, who created Sherlock, sued Netflix at one point, claiming those traits only appeared in a limited number of books and therefore protected by copyright. Don't ask.

In any case, Enola Holmes isn't about Sherlock. He's a periodic wingman and a welcome presence, but this is the tale of Enola, and that is good.

We follow her to places proper teenage girls of this era weren't supposed to even dream of going, and along the way, she runs into – among others – a fugitive young aristocrat, Lord Tewksbury (Louis Partridge), who is vain, annoying, naïve and, in his own way, rather fascinating.

They soon fall into adventures neither one foresaw or particularly wants. But all of this helps hone Enola's skill at discerning obscure clues, or simply recognizing these clues exist. She also gets help, some intentional and some unwitting, from various other characters she meets along the way.

In general, Enola has a buoyant spirit akin to other determined young women in literature, from Katniss in The Hunger Games to Elizabeth Bennett in Pride and Prejudice.

The film Enola Holmes also has a backstory of its own. It was originally planned as a theatrical release and then, like many other productions, shifted to a streaming release when COVID-19 closed the theaters.

There has been no formal indication it will be more than a single production. But Springer wrote a whole series of Enola Holmes books, so if this film does really well, and someone decides it could become a series, that would be a development most pleasing.

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J Hanna
I watched it last night. Excellent. I really enjoyed the entire two hours.
Sep 28, 2020   |  Reply
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