Millie Bobby Brown Brings Fresh Flavor to the Sherlock Holmes-verse on Netflix
DIRECTOR: HENRY BRADBEER/2020
There’s something you need to know about Enola Holmes: Her first name is “alone” spelled backward.
Actually, there are a few things Enola (Millie Bobby Brown) thinks we need to know as her story opens, including that in spite of her name, she’s never been alone because her mother (Helena Bonham Carter) has always been with her. Oh, and one other thing: Did she mention her brother is Sherlock Holmes?
Actually, Sherlock (Henry Cavill) is just one of her brothers. The eldest, Mycroft (Sam Claflin), becomes responsible for her when her mother disappears on her 16th birthday. He’s not a fan of how free-spirited and independent his mother has raised her to be, and he wants to send her to Miss Harrison’s Finishing School, an environment as rigid and humorless as Miss Harrison (Fiona Shaw) herself. Since Enola has developed a mind of her own—shudder!— she would prefer to search for her mother instead, though she underestimates how difficult this will be. Soon her sleuthing becomes entangled with England’s political future and the path of another fugitive, Viscount Tewkesbury, the Marquess of Basilwether Hall (Louis Partridge)—the game is afoot!
Even without her mother, Enola is not alone because we are guests on her journey. She addresses us personally throughout her story, monologuing to the camera like Ferris Bueller and making Jim Halpert faces when it would be imprudent to share her feelings aloud. We’re in on her jokes and share her exasperation at the clueless adults making decisions for her. While they see Enola’s strong mind as a roadblock to her becoming a proper lady, she knows it’s her greatest strength. When they underestimate her, she takes advantage of it, and when they talk down to her, she’s able to see through the bull to discover clues she needs to solve her mystery. There’s no equivalent to that “Bueller…Bueller…” scene, but I think Ben Stein’s voodoo economics teacher would have fit right in this world.
Like Ferris and Jim, Enola’s insubordination is entirely charming, and this is thanks to Millie Bobby Brown. The 16-year-old actress got our attention as Eleven in Stranger Things, and this role is proof her talent and charisma are not limited to fighting demogorgons. This movie lets a stacked cast of performers known for dramatic roles flex their comedic muscles, and I hope this isn’t a one-off opportunity. Most of our time with Cavill has been spent watching him scowl in pain as Superman, and we know Claflin best as tragic figures from The Hunger Games and Me Before You. Who knew both of these guys could be funny? It was news to me, and I’m hoping they’ll get more scripts just as witty and roles just as magnetic so it’s not a secret anymore.
I am not Sherlock Holmes scholar, so I have little insight into how Cavill’s portrayal or the introduction of a non-Conan Doyle little sister fits into the beloved canon. I do know the character is well-worn, which is part of the reason I’ve enjoyed the Guy Ritchie/Robert Downey Jr. collaborations. If we never get that long-gestating third entry into the series, this winsome take on the detective is a cousin that would fit nicely in a triple feature. It may have a little less action, a few more jokes, a brighter color palette, and a cheekier score, but its subversive spirit and artsy filmmaking style bring fresh flavor to an intellectual property Hollywood won’t tire of anytime soon.