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Review: Enola Holmes – “A fun mystery to solve”

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Enola Holmes is the latest addition to Netflix’s repertoire starring Henry Cavill, though he is not lead in this film. The lead is Millie Bobby Brown (Stanger Things) who deftly carries this cheery and affectionate telling of a Holmes story, centred on a little sister who has mostly been out of touch with her siblings Sherlock (Cavill) and Mycroft (Sam Claflin) but is very close to their mother (Helena Bonham Carter). When their mother disappears on Enola’s 16th birthday she uses her own detective skills to find her and explore the world outside their reclusive country home.

Enola is a charismatic and funny guide to the audience, openly narrating straight to the camera she comes across as confident and avoids being insufferable like most narration can be. The key to this endearing narration became clear once I saw that the film is directed by Harry Bradbeer, whose experience directing most of the hit TV show Fleabag and its use of direct narration has been applied here too. Thanks to this, Enola’s bright-eyed wonder is infectious.

When Enola finds her mother has disappeared she appeals to her brothers for help, but Mycroft is now her guardian and expects her to live up to the Victorian standards for women and sends her away to a boarding school where she can learn to be a woman and get a husband. The society Enola finds herself in is a character in itself. As a woman she has little rights over herself – she’s not alone in this; the civil rights movement is asking for “votes for all men” and not just the land-owners. It’s a unique twist and characterisation we don’t usually see in Sherlock stories as the character is uninterested in politics or changing the status quo. Which the film calls him out on for benefitting from this luxury.

Enola manages to escape their country home and gets on a train to London, meeting the boy Lord Viscount Tewkesbury (Louis Partridge) who has similarly run away from home to maintain his independence. He brings with him his own danger and despite her best efforts becomes interested in him and the possible plot to murder him. From here Enola has her own case to solve while trying to evade the world’s best detective at the same time. Hiding out in London, the dirty streets, and Enola’s breakdown of fighting styles calls back to Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes films but not as washed out.

It’s a fun cat-and-mouse game with the backdrop of civil rights, women’s rights, and suffrage adding depth and flavour to what would have been a bland story. The only issue would be that the cases of Lord Tewkesbury and her missing mother feel very separate from each other and vie for Enola’s and our attention. Lacking from focus in the middle it does get lost in its plot before picking back up in the conclusion.

The film may wrap up in a neat bow (while leaving itself open for sequels) it’s a fun mystery to solve, appealing to fans of detective stories – Cavill is a curious Sherlock and should have his own spin-off in all fairness. Part-detective and part-coming of age story, Enola Holmes is a funny and cheerful film and Enola will easily entice you along on her adventure.

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