Review: Sherlock who? Millie Bobby Brown is terrific in the clever ‘Enola Holmes’
Amy March, Scout Finch, Lisa Simpson … you never know what you’re going to get in a younger sister, and Enola Holmes is as surprising as any of them. Bursting forth from Nancy Springer’s young adult series “Enola Holmes Mysteries,” which focuses on the younger sibling of Sherlock, Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous detective, Enola provides a richly fanciful, fresh perspective on the well-worn family name.
The new Netflix movie “Enola Holmes,” based on “The Case of the Missing Marquess,” stars a delightful Millie Bobby Brown in a saucy 1900-set pastiche with a modern feminist spin. Enola — who likes to point out that her name is “alone” spelled backward — is bright, clever, curious and, above all, resolute. These are things we learn quickly from her many conspiratorial asides directed at the camera. Underestimate her at your own peril. Most people do.
Decades younger than her better-known siblings (Mycroft being the elder of the two Holmes brothers), Enola grew up primarily with just their mother Eudoria (Helena Bonham Carter), a formidable woman of secrets. At Ferndell Hall, the family country manor, Eudoria schooled her daughter in literature, physics, philosophy, martial arts, you name it. But the most lasting lessons were those of character, instilling grit, independence and the understanding that Enola should not let society dictate her path.
On Enola’s 16th birthday, Eudoria vanishes, leaving behind clues that it was a planned departure. Brusque Mycroft (Sam Claflin) and the charming but aloof Sherlock (Henry Cavill) arrive, ready to pack Enola off to Miss Harrison’s Finishing School for Girls and locate their mother. Enola, however, has no interest in corsets, school or being finished.
She sets off for London alone to search for Eudoria, following her wits and using the skills her mother taught her. Along the way, she encounters Viscount (soon to be Lord) Tewksbury, Marquess of Basilwether (Louis Partridge). Enola is not immediately impressed by his foppish, One Direction-like appeal and dismisses him as “a useless boy.”
They will, of course, meet again, and Tewksbury will prove to be unexpectedly resourceful even as he fills the damoiseau en détresse role, his catchphrase being, “I’m not an idiot, you know.”
As she searches for her mother, Enola finds herself pursued by a violent man in a brown bowler (Burn Gorman) while engaging with anarchists, explosives, class upheaval, political intrigue and … murder. And as unlikely as it may have seemed at the outset, the fate of Britain hangs in the balance.
Adapted by Jack Thorne, the fiendishly prolific writer of theater, television and film, “Enola Holmes” is nothing short of thrilling in its mix of action, humor, mystery and even the early stirrings of romance. British TV veteran Harry Bradbeer (“Fleabag”) directs a fine cast, including Fiona Shaw as Miss Harrison, as well as Susan Wokoma, Adeel Akhtar and Frances de la Tour.
At a little more than two hours, “Enola Holmes” may be a tad long, but there are a lot of threads to unravel and it does so more than satisfactorily. It’s a fine vehicle for the versatile Brown (who also produced with her sister Paige), and with five more books in the Springer series, it’s possible we haven’t seen the last of Sherlock Holmes’ smarter sister.
Rated: PG-13, for some violence
Running time: 2 hours, 3 minutes
Playing: Available Sept. 23 on Netflix
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