“Enola Holmes,” 2020, directed by Harry Bradbeer – 2.5/5 Stars
While “Enola Holmes” likely sounded good on paper to a conference room of Netflix executives, it was doomed to be mediocre from the point of its conception. It’s an unbeatable formula: an adaption of a popular young adult novel with an all-star cast and a budget in the tens of millions of dollars; what could go wrong? As it turns out, a lot can go wrong.
Enola, the title character, played by Millie Bobby Brown, is the younger sister of Sherlock Holmes, played by Henry Cavill. When Enola is seventeen, her mother, played by Helena Bonham Carter, goes missing. It takes the movie a while to arrive at the beginning of this main plot, taking its time establishing its characters, motivations and setting. Enola sets off to look for her mother and, on the way, meets a young lord, Viscount Tewksbury, played by Louis Partridge. Encountering Tewksbury complicates Enola’s plans when she discovers that there is a plot to kill him. All this converges in a fun, simple but sometimes boring adventure for Enola and the audience.
The film, at its core, is totally fine for its target audience. It’s entertaining, is shot and color-corrected competently and has a good core message. Enola is a positive role model, and the majority of the cast seems to be having fun in their roles. Parents, babysitters and older siblings watching along, though, are likely to find the writing a little silly or played-out. On top of that, the movie’s message of gender equality and social acceptance might come off as ham-fisted and disingenuous.
Director Harry Bradbeer is most notably known for his work on the Amazon original series “Fleabag” and that influence can be seen in “Enola Holmes.” Enola, like the character of “Fleabag,” sometimes breaks the fourth wall and speaks directly to the camera. One big reason this creative choice works in “Fleabag” is because the characters and awkward moments feel painfully real, and the fourth wall breaks give the audience some needed levity. “Enola Holmes,” on the other hand, has stakes set very low with the audience’s suspension of disbelief stretched to its limit with historical inaccuracy and over-the-top scenarios. When Brown speaks directly to the camera as Enola, that suspension becomes non-existent, and it awkwardly removes the audience from whatever immersion in the story they had left. This is not to say that the lack of historical accuracy and lighthearted framing are always a bad thing; they make the movie what it is and contribute to its charm, but directly breaking the fourth wall was not a great creative choice here.
To put it bluntly, “Enola Holmes” is very forgettable. Its cast members are committed and fun to watch, but the events of the film lack a feeling of importance or emotional value. Watching it feels more like viewing a pretty façade rather than a fully fleshed-out story. Harmless and sometimes fun, most audiences won’t be missing out on much if they don’t watch this film.
“Enola Holmes” can be watched right now on Netflix.