Enola Holmes, 2020.
Directed by Harry Bradbeer.
Starring Millie Bobby Brown, Henry Cavill, Sam Claflin, Louis Partridge, Helena Bonham Carter, Burn Gorman, Susie Wokoma, Fiona Shaw, Adeel Akhtar and Frances De La Tour.
The teenage sister of famed detective Sherlock Holmes embarks on an adventure to track down their mother after she disappears without warning.
The world of Arthur Conan Doyle continues to fascinate and enthral filmmakers, perhaps even more than it enthrals audiences. It seems like different spins on the Sherlock Holmes universe appear at a rate of one every year or two, with the latest choosing to shift perspective to Enola – teenage sister of Sherlock and Mycroft. Prolific scribe Jack Thorne is on writing duties, adapting the first book in Nancy Springer’s series of novels. Brought to the screen with self-conscious quirk and style by Fleabag director Harry Bradbeer, the result is an infuriating near-miss of a movie where the biggest mystery is why it’s so long and meandering.
Stranger Things star Millie Bobby Brown plays 16-year-old Enola, who is left reeling by the disappearance of her mother (Helena Bonham Carter), with whom she has spent her childhood playing games, imbibing history and learning Jujutsu fighting techniques. Older brothers Sherlock (Henry Cavill) and Mycroft (Sam Claflin), however, are more concerned with sending her off to a finishing school run by Miss Harrison (Fiona Shaw). Enola has no intention of doing this, though, and embarks on an adventure that brings her into the orbit of young Viscount Tewkesbury (Louis Partridge).
Like so many recent takes on Conan Doyle’s sleuth, Enola Holmes dangles a promising mystery in front of the audience’s faces, only to completely lose interest in solving it. Thorne’s script has dozens of subplots that it flirts with addressing, only to be distracted by something else, like a dog running to the window after spotting a passing cat. The issue of voting reform runs in the background, as well as the burgeoning movement for women’s suffrage. Feminist credentials arrive occasionally – Claflin’s Mycroft spits at the very notion during one scene – but are quickly tossed aside.
Brown embraces the material with all of her energy, delivering her fast-talking dialogue with charisma, often directly down the lens. The constant demolition of the fourth wall – Brown is constantly smirking into the camera, even when she’s not speaking to the audience – is evidently a nod to Bradbeer’s Fleabag work, but quickly becomes exhausting in this movie. By the time Brown actively asks the audience for ideas like she’s Dora the Explorer, the stylistic gimmick threatens to collapse the film entirely. This is a movie entirely overwhelmed by its own filmmaking flourishes.
Understandably, Sherlock is relegated to a supporting role here, but Cavill still threatens to steal the show as probably the sexiest sleuth ever to grace the screen, complete with Superman curl and oodles of charm. Claflin, meanwhile, gets little to do as Mycroft beyond his trademark aggressive posho shtick and Partridge is, perhaps deliberately, just a damp squib love interest for the protagonist. The ensemble has a very deep bench of talent – Shaw has great fun and Adeel Akhtar is a pleasantly goofy Lestrade – but they are given far too little to do. Chewing Gum star Susie Wokoma is a particularly unforgivable waste, appearing in only a few scenes as a leading figure in the women’s movement, with a concealed fighting dojo.
On paper, it’s easy to see why Enola Homes seemed like an attractive proposition for all involved. The constituent parts are all there for a female-focused teen adventure that provides a new spin on Sherlock Holmes, but they’re all thrown together into an ungainly and bloated tale that never quite possesses the energy to match the amount of story it’s attempting to cover. Despite a fun Millie Bobby Brown and Cavill essaying the best of his swaggering charm, the result is an irritatingly quirky movie that becomes lost amid the sparkle of its own style tricks.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★
Tom Beasley is a freelance film journalist and wrestling fan. Follow him on Twitter via @TomJBeasley for movie opinions, wrestling stuff and puns.