‘Stranger Things’ have happened—than Millie Bobby Brown playing the spunky little sibling of the world’s most famous British gumshoe
Starring Millie Bobby Brown, Henry Cavill, Sam Claflin, Lewis Partridge and Helena Bonham Carter
Directed by Harry Bradbeer
On Netflix September 23, 2020
You probably know that Sherlock Holmes, the famous fictional British detective, has been played by some 75 different actors—including Robert Downey Jr., Basil Rathbone, Benedict Cumberbatch, Sir Ian McKellen, Roger Moore and Will Ferrell. According to Guinness World Records, he’s the most portrayed human character ever in film and TV history.
You might know that his famous office was on London’s Baker Street, and this his creator was Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who wrote about Sherlock in four novels and 56 short stories.
But did you know Sherlock had a little sister?
You did, and you do, if you read the mystery novels of Nancy Springer about Sherlock’s spunky 14-year-old sibling, around which this fun, feisty new movie adaption is spun.
In Enola Holmes, which draws primarily from Springer’s “The Case of the Missing Marquess,” we meet Enola (Millie Bobby Brown) riding her bicycle across the English countryside. It’s 1884, and she’s on a mission to meet her older brothers, Sherlock (Henry Cavill) and Mycroff (Sam Clafin), at the train station.
The Holmes bros have come back to their childhood manor to look into the circumstances of the disappearance of their mother, the eccentric and mysterious Eudoria (Helena Bonham Carter). Sherlock, we learn, is already famous as a crime-solving super-sleuth. Mycroft is…well, appalled that their mother has let home-schooled little sister become such an “uneducated, underdressed and poorly mannered wildling.”
Even with a batch of Holmes stirring about, the movie clearly belongs to Enola. She’s a budding detective who not only dives into the case of her missing mom, but also finds herself at odds with her snooty brother Mycroff, who declares himself her guardian and tries to ship her off to a finishing school to “make her acceptable to society”—and find a husband.
Of course, Enola will have none of that. Running away from home, she dons a disguise (the first of several) and hops a train, where she meets up with another teen fugitive, a renegade, run-away royal named Lord Tewksbury (Louis Partridge), the “missing marquess.”
Sherlock, meanwhile, more sympathetic to his younger sister, suspects that something else, perhaps something bigger, is going on…
The game, as they say, is afoot.
Actually, Mycroft does say exactly that, as he begins to try to decipher where his sassy sister has gone, and why. Enola Holmes is a grand game, a passel of puzzles to solve, a hive of hints that you’ll have great Knives Out-kinda fun sorting out—playing along with Enola, who frequently turns and talks into the camera and tells you how things are going, who’s who and what’s what.
And it’s about time a movie took some of the spotlight off Sherlock and put it on someone else—specifically, someone female. It’s no coincidence the story weaves its plot into England’s upheaval at the time about voting rights and the women’s Suffragette movement, or that Enola’s mother—seen repeatedly in flashbacks—tells her she can “do anything and be anything,” making sure Enola is well-versed not only in history, science and art, but also the art of self defense (specifically jujitsu).
Enola’s mother tells her that a better future is worth fighting for.
“Paint your own picture, Enola,” she says. “Don’t be thrown off-course by other people—especially men.”
Best known for navigating the monstrous sci-fi scares of Netflix’s Stranger Things, Brown is a delight and a dynamo as the fledgling British sleuth, forging her own path, following her mother’s advice—as well has her trail—as Enola zips in and out of London, dodges a mysterious assassin (Jamestown’s Burn Gorman), uncovers a bloody royal scandal and helps change the course of English history. Director Harry Bradbeer, a two-time Emmy winner for directing episodes of Amazon’s acclaimed series Fleabag, knows how to coax out just the right levels of humor, action and emotion.
Cavill, taking a break from playing Superman in the D.C. movie franchise, certainly doesn’t try to swoop in and steal the show. He knows this flick belongs to little sis, and he lets her have it. And he plays Sherlock as London’s genius detective who’s smart enough to know that even he has a few things to learn.
“You see the world so closely,” a female character chides him, noting that he’s always poking around with his nose in coal dust and footprints. “But do you see how it’s changing?” The suffrage movement, the struggle for the right for women to vote, was finally ratified 100 years ago in the United States—a centennial marked just a few weeks before you’ll be seeing young Enola make the liberated leap from page to screen.
Set in a Victorian era that was indeed changing and evolving, headed to a better, brighter future, the juiced-up, teen-titan girl power of Enola Holmes makes for a right-on, righteously fun romp with a revved-up, fem-forward message that still rings, ever louder and truer today.