Skip to content

ENOLA HOLMES (2020) review

September 29, 2020


written by: Jack Thorne (screenplay), Nancy Springer (novel)
produced by: Millie Bobby Brown, Paige Brown, Ali Mendes, & Mary Parent
directed by: Harry Bradbeer
rated: PG-13 (for some violence)
runtime: 123 min.
U.S. release date: September 23, 2020 (exclusively on Netflix)


“I have kept every clipping of every case of yours I could ever find… and yet it took our mother’s disappearance to bring you home.”


In an entertainment landscape littered with remakes and reboots, sequels, prequels, and re-quels, not to mention re-imaginings, re-interpretings, re-contextualizings, and retconning, it’s easy to get cynical about new spins on old standbys. These trepidations come boiling to the surface when one hears about “Enola Holmes,” a story that wonders what it might be like if Sherlock Holmes had an equally clever younger sister.

The questions then begin coming into my mind… Does she have to be Sherlock’s sister? Why not just have it be “Enola Harrison” or someone completely unrelated to such a beloved character? What is the value in having this entirely new character exist in an already established universe? Most crucially, though, is that age old question: Did the world really need another Sherlock Holmes-related story?



I think there is a definitive answer to that question, but first some context. Everyone knows that Sherlock Holmes does indeed have a sibling in older brother Mycroft. What “Enola Holmes” presupposes is, what if he also had a younger sister named Enola played by “Stranger Things” breakout Millie Bobby Brown. It also sets the story during what I presume was a short-lived peak-hunk period for both Sherlock and Mycroft, played by Henry Cavill and Sam Claflin, respectively, not necessarily in order of hotness.

The story, based on the young adult novels “The Enola Holmes Mysteries” by Nancy Springer, mostly backgrounds the established characters to give its heroine room to be her own woman. Here, Enola’s sixteenth birthday gets off to a rocky start when her mother Eudora (Helena Bonham Carter, great as always) goes missing. When her concerns are dismissed by her older brothers, she strikes out on her own to solve the case of the missing mother.

Like any good Holmes story, regardless of the character’s Christian name, that’s actually just a pretext to a larger mystery that starts as a side quest with a fellow rambunctious teen, the Viscount Tewkesbury (Louis Partridge). He proves more of a nuisance than a companion, however, and Enola quickly ditches him. The circular nature of the plot ensures he’ll return, however, but he is wisely never positioned as an equal to Enola.



That alone is a refreshing change of pace for your typical “wise beyond her years” type of character. These female characters are almost always saddled with a male partner who is clearly inferior in terms of mental faculties, but eventually proves her equal in those pesky street smarts she can’t read about in any of her books. This isn’t that, thankfully, and it’s all the better for it.

While I never did care for “Stranger Things,” I’m here to assert that Millie Bobby Brown is the real deal, with poise and charm beyond her years. However, she also retains an otherworldly quality similar to what made Sissy Spacek such a fascinating leading lady, and I sincerely hope that the industry doesn’t let her down. Cavill and Claflin are both fine, serviceably fun and effortless in their roles. They seem like obvious choices to draw in viewers, but if we’re being honest here, they’re far from the most qualified actors of their generation to be playing these parts.

The supporting cast is full of wonderful character actors, including Burn Gorman, a marvelously cast red herring. He is an actor that wears eccentricity and villainy so well, one can’t help but think they wouldn’t be so obvious in casting him as the main antagonist. It seems like a film everyone enjoyed making, which doesn’t usually make for a great film, but it works here as an infectious byproduct of a damn enjoyable production.



The film’s PG-13 rating also seems like the latest in a long line of questionable ratings by the MPAA. The film’s content does not warrant a stricter rating than PG, though. This is far tamer than the comic book movies carrying the same rating and substantially more violent content. There’s a bit of a spoilsport energy to the MPAA and they seem to be punishing the movie because it’s about kids who push back against an adult-run society. 8 year-olds can easily handle even the darkest moments of this film, promise.

So, to the question set before us at the beginning… Yes, the world always needs another Sherlock Holmes-related story so long as it’s a story worth telling. Nicholas Meyer did this with “The Seven Per-Cent Solution,” Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat did it with “Sherlock,” heck even Gene Wilder did it with “The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes’ Smarter Brother,” which had a similar—if much more comedic—take on the material as “Enola Holmes.”

I’d say Nancy Springer and company have also accomplished this feat with “Enola Holmes.” It’s a damn good entry point for new fans—young and old—as well as a charming variation on beloved characters that doesn’t betray their origins to any degree. So long as theatres across the world churn out endless new productions of Shakespeare, so too will clever writers and creators find new and interesting ways to utilize Holmes and the gang. Sure, you’ll get your fair share of “Holmes & Watson”-sized debacles along the way, but the “Enola Holmes” of the world tip the balance in a satisfying direction.


RATING: ***1/2



No comments yet

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: