Films To Be Thankful For: Enola Holmes (2020)

Chike Coleman's look at Enola Holmes, the 2020 Netflix release, another film he is thankful for.

Films To Be Thankful For’ is a column dedicated to providing mini-reviews for the films I am thankful were made, as they inspired me in some way.

Enola Holmes is the kind of movie I’d love if I were 14.  At that time, I was deeply immersed in the classic stories written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle about the world’s greatest detective.  The problem is, I’m not 14; I’m 33. All the unique facets of the story of Enola Holmes would have fascinated my younger self. However, the now-adult individual still loves good mysteries.  Enola Holmes (Millie Bobbie Brown) lives on the family estate with her mother (Helena Bonan Carter).  Enola’s mother teaches her all of the lessons books can provide and gives a physical education in Ju-Jitsu.  Enola is happy. 

On her 16th birthday, Enola’s mother goes missing, and with a steely resolve, Enola sets out to find her.  While on this mission, Enola has to evade her brothers Mycroft (Sam Claflin) and Sherlock (Henry Cavill) and keep hidden from a dangerous assassin (Burn Gorman).

Enola Holmes has all the style of a Victorian-era Sherlock Holmes story with none of the punch that a mystery of that size routinely brings.  Enola, as a character, only acts strong because she has to.  There isn’t really an evolution of her character. Because of that, the movie becomes stale quickly.  Enola Holmes also tries breaking the fourth wall ala the TV series Fleabag.  While this is a fun idea, it doesn’t engage us much in the plot or the action.

Millie Bobby Brown may be amazing in Stranger Things, but she overacts throughout this entire film.  The actress’s expressions and dialogue feel quite hammy when compared to her work on Netflix’s popular drama.  She has good chemistry with Henry Cavill and Sam Clafin, but it’s rare that I ever ended up rooting for her success when she got into trouble.  Aside from Brown’s poor acting, I felt there was far too much hand-holding guiding the audience along on the journey rather than leaving clues for them to find.

So if I have so many problems with this film and the performances, why is this experience something I’m grateful for?  For me, anything in the Sherlock Holmes canon represents intelligence. Even though not all adaptations of the famous detective and his siblings have been adapted well, any attempt is valid.  It is admirable for this film to embrace Enola, as women need better role models in cinema. Teenage women, especially, need to see themselves represented not just in things like The After series but also in characters in classic literature, as it demonstrates empowerment and representation in a time where there wasn’t any, and shows women they can be anything they put their mind to.

The recognition of a streaming service like Netflix to even want to purchase a film that represents that shows in many ways how far the development of movies has advanced in such a short time. I am all for it.  The writing of that representation just needs to be much sharper to really emotionally invest the targeted audience. Nonetheless, I’m thankful for this modern film with classical leanings because it reminds me of why I loved the original stories initially.  I think it can grab a new set of readers if the sequel is better than this original entry.

Written by
Chike has been a film critic in Illinois for the last 10 years with Urbana Public Television. Most of his work can be found on their YouTube channel where his show Reel Reviews is posted. The films he enjoys most are the kind that surprise you with characters that are deeper than you could ever suspect. As much as he loves reviewing it’s the stories that are unexpected that bring him the most joy. He lives in Champaign with his parents surrounded by cornfields.

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