Netflix tries their hand at the period piece genre by optimizing inventive storytelling and youthful quirk.
As the streamer prepares for a stacked run of fall releases – The Trial of the Chicago 7 and Adam Sandler’s Hubie Halloween some of the ones up next on the docket – Enola Holmes arrives as a breath of fresh air both literally and figuratively.
The charming tale of the sister to Sherlock and her daring first steps into the world have taken a new meaning with so many hunkered down in their homes. Everything is new, exciting and rightfully scary to Enola, and its nice to experience that again (even if its through a computer screen).
Adapted from the series The Enola Holmes Mysteries, we’re due for the perspective of another Holmes after an overload of the titular Holmes across film and television. Even if we get another one in this film, Millie Bobby Brown still owns the story.
Raised by her mother Eudoria (Helena Bonham Carter) with her older brothers Mycroft (Sam Claflin) and Sherlock (Henry Cavill) already out the nest, Enola has lived a life of great joy and loneliness. Eudoria employs some interesting techniques when raising Enola: making her read every book in their personal library, putting on rigorous inside tennis matches, and the occasional mother-daughter hand-to-hand combat lesson.
Their close, yet isolated existence falls apart when Eudoria suddenly goes missing and Enola’s brothers show up at their doorstep to finally set her up with a proper education. But Enola doesn’t want to become the woman she’s expected to be — she needs to figure that out on her own time.
So she escapes to put the clues her mother has left her and bring her home, making Enola Holmes a traditional detective story in the Holmes sense as our heroine encounters questionable characters on her clue-cobbling romp across England.
As with any proper period piece, the would-be love interest gets some play when Enola aids a young Lord named Tewksebury (Louis Partridge). With some mysterious man out to kill him, she has to decipher where her detective duties are going to be best used.
The most intriguing characters happen to be the ones in her immediate family, though.
Claflin delivers a stone-faced and slightly campy portrayal of Mycroft (oversized mustache and all). Cavill is rightfully dashing and gives a softer side to Sherlock, even if he can get clouded by big brain judgement. And Carter looks like she’s having the most fun she’s had on screen in years.
An uncanny resemblance to Brown aside, the two have a mother-daughter relationship bursting with heart. Even when things get physical, their fight scenes are playful and have a Karate Kid kick to them.
Enola Holmes has other out-the-box tricks: a running thread of the movie has Brown talking to camera, providing narration and reactionary looks straight out of The Office. It’s not only a useful storytelling aspect, but a way to personally address all the young girls watching.
The 2-hour long feature could have easily chopped off a half-hour of its run time or worked as a limited series given that there’s already talk of potential sequels. But Brown is able to save the moments that drag when she’s in her element, sidetracking Sherlock and others with devilish wit and charm.