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Enola Holmes Review: Can Sherlock be bested?

Enola Holmes Review: The idea of Enola Holmes comes from novels for Young Adults written by Nancy Springer, but the film engages adults too.

September 26, 2020 / 09:12 AM IST

For someone who grew up on smuggled VHS tapes of Jeremy Brett as Sherlock Holmes and has seen everyone from Robert Downey Jr. to Benedict Cumberbatch play the detective, it was weird to see Henry Cavill smile so much in this Netflix version of yet another Holmes mystery. I had to get myself a pot of tea when I saw Sherlock plonk down on the ground under a tree.

But with a flavourful of Darjeeling tickling my taste buds, I realised I was quite happy to watch yet another Holmes solve a delightful mystery.

The trailer reminds you that the idea of Enola Holmes comes from novels for Young Adults written by Nancy Springer and this is an adaptation of the book: The Case Of The Missing Marquess. The film, however, engages adults too. The action is fast-paced and the mystery is quite interesting, but… Yes, there is a ‘but’. Not too ominous, except that we are so used to a taciturn Sherlock who communicates with a raising of his eyebrow, that to watch Enola Holmes talk nineteen to a dozen, breaking the fourth wall (talking directly to the audience) compelled me to drink way more tea than I normally do.

So Enola has been brought up like ‘a wild thing’ according to the straitlaced Mycroft despite having sent his mother money for governesses and other suitable teachers who would teach his sister manners and make her suitable for marriage. Enola doesn’t do embroidery or wear corsets, but rides bicycles and knows how to fight. She is not the usual prim Victorian miss she’s expected to be.


Sherlock and Mycroft show up at their country home to help figure out where their mother has disappeared to, and they end up chasing after a runaway sister as well. If you have a brother like Mycroft (played wonderfully by Sam Claflin), who cared more about social standing than why his mother had gone missing, then you’d run away too.

Sherlock Holmes has always been shown as disconnected from society and disdainful of conventions. So it’s fun watching Henry Cavill play Sherlock so very differently from Jeremy Brett (the best Sherlock in my humble opinion!). No slicked back hair here for Sherlock. His curls humanised him here. Even though he was being himself when he does not want the responsibility of a sister who begs him to take her under his wing.

But the movie truly belongs to the young Millie Bobby Brown who plays Enola Holmes. Yes, you saw her in Stranger Things as Eleven. In a way here too, she comes across as someone who does not fit in society, someone who has been taught to celebrate her difference. And yes, she’s as good as her famous brother Sherlock.

Enola wants to find out where her mother went and her brother Mycroft wants her to become a lady. Sherlock doesn’t want anything to do with her so she takes matters into her own hands. The film that follows is fast-paced and full of action. That’s great because it makes you forget that this was written for young adults.

Her adventures take her to London in search of her mother. Although it feels like CGI sometimes, you don’t care. You worry about her safety because a creepy murderer is following her. I loved the character of Edith, the lady who owns a teahouse and teaches ladies Jiu Jitsu. But it’s Victorian London and women had yet not earned a right to vote, let alone have a voice.

Edith is played by the Nigerian British actor who was super in the TV series called Chewing Gum. She gives us a glimpse into the women’s Suffrage movement in the film and that made me wish this were a series rather than a film. Helena Bonham Carter who plays Eudoria Holmes is perhaps part of that violent part of the change that the women wanted. Helena Bonham Carter is an accomplished actor, and I despair whenever I see that Bellatrix madness in her roles.

You will love the actual clues and the mystery Enola solves for someone she bumps into during her runaway adventure. And you will enjoy how differently Sherlock solves the same mystery and gives you that ‘a-ha!’ moment.

This is a breezy two-hour watch for the family. Don’t be surprised if the little girls in the house force you to participate in a flower to alphabet clue solver craft project over this weekend. I quite liked Enola Holmes for her independent spirit. If she doesn’t talk to the audience in the next film, I will be happy to watch. And Henry Cavill… He’s so dishy, you would be Sher-locked too!

Manisha Lakhe Is A Poet, Film Critic, Traveller, Founder Of Caferati — An Online Writer’s Forum, Hosts Mumbai’s Oldest Open Mic, And Teaches Advertising, Films And Communication.
Manisha Lakhe is a poet, film critic, traveller, founder of Caferati — an online writer’s forum, hosts Mumbai’s oldest open mic, and teaches advertising, films and communication.

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