Movie Review: Enola Holmes

By Ben Lindner, Contributor
[Netflix; 2020]
Rating: 5/10

Sometimes a movie throws too many balls in the air, and though it might catch some, it will always end up dropping just as many. That’s basically Enola Holmes, a movie following the titular lead character (Millie Bobby Brown) as she chases after her missing mother (Helena Bonham Carter), all while being pursued by her brother, the legendary Sherlock Holmes (Henry Cavill). Brown is excellent as the lead, and she delivers every line with tremendous energy and owns every one of her scenes. While not the most earth-shattering performance, Brown proves here that she can hold her own as the lead. 

Read more: Movie Review: The Peanut Butter Falcon

Enola breaks the fourth wall throughout the film, and Brown executes this tough task well. These fourth wall breaks are a lot of fun, with the narration often going with a scrapbook-style montage that is visually compelling. Other times, Brown speaks directly to the camera. For the most part, this works well, helping the viewer follow Enola as she puts pieces of the mystery together. At other times, however, the fourth wall breaks can get in the way, feeling a bit Dora the Explorer (there is even a point where Enola looks directly into the camera and asks the audience what to do next in the case). While these stylistic choices are some of the most interesting aspects of the film, their use becomes very limited in the second half as the movie gets much more concerned with the plot.

Unfortunately, Enola is really the only notable character. Enola’s mother, Eudoria, is astoundingly underused and the noble Tewkesbury (Louis Partridge), who Enola journeys with, is barely a character. Even Henry Cavill’s turn at the iconic Sherlock Holmes is barely notable. This is really no fault of Cavill’s as his character is written to do little more than stand around, look at books and deliver smart one-liners every once in a while.

Now, with this being a Holmes story, it is of course a mystery, but there are simply too many elements of this story for them all to come together successfully. It is exciting to see Enola go on an adventure, but the elements of the mystery are extremely loose. The crux of the mystery is a “reform vote” that is never explained and Enola seems hardly concerned with this element anyway, even though she is credited with resolving the vote situation in the end. She also gets caught up with Tewkesbury, who is on the run just like Enola, and they have to determine who is trying to kill him. In addition to both of these things, Enola begins her adventure looking for her mother after she has disappeared.

The messaging of the film also struggles. The film establishes a strong “forge your own path” theme from the first few minutes, never deviating from this perspective through the whole movie. There are attempts to add additional nuance to this theme, but they are so brief that they fail to add anything of substance. Also too brief are the film’s attempts at feminist ideas, which are covered as extensively and accurately as you’d expect a movie written and directed by men to be. While no doubt relevant, such a half-hearted attempt doesn’t have any room in the story and only serves to weaken it. 

Enola Holmes is clunky and tries to do way too much. Its mystery elements fall flat, which is especially disappointing from a movie with the “Holmes” namesake in the title. However, a fun, charismatic lead performance keeps it light and elevates the movie to be a perfectly adequate viewing experience.

Watch the trailer here:

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