Millie Bobby Brown brings her energy and charisma to the role of Enola Holmes, the teen sister of famed detective Sherlock (an easily-outshined Henry Cavill) and pantomime villain Mycroft (Sam Claflin). Based not on the original Arthur Conan Doyle texts but rather on the book series by Nancy Springer, Netflix’s Enola Holmes is a bright, family-friendly watch with a likeable lead that unfortunately ends up feeling a little flimsy.
Brought up away from society and given a richly varied – if unconventional – education by her mother Eudoria (Helena Bonham Carter), Enola views Victorian society the way a modern outsider would, drawing the audience in closer. Baffled by the gender roles and expected lifestyle others would try to force on her, her (era-relative) radical outlook is grounded in hope and bull-headed determination.
While it’s certainly a refreshing change from the jaded politics of today, Jack Thorne’s screenplay can be irritatingly earnest. Its simplistic and unwavering optimism about resisting societal expectations and forging your own path lacks the nuance it needs to be engaging. The thin writing is all the more blatant because of the depth of insight audiences have come to expect from Harry Bradbeer’s signature Fleabag narrative device: to have his heroine break the fourth wall and speak straight-to-camera to voice her inner musings. While this device grants Enola control over her own story, her narration is sadly limited to funny anecdotes and winks to the viewer, which denies her character the richness she deserves.
Enola Holmes also lacks what lends Sherlock Holmes stories their enduring appeal: a well-constructed mystery with a satisfying conclusion. The initial mystery surrounding the sudden disappearance of Enola’s mother is quickly abandoned to instead follow a somewhat dull – though sweet – runaway lord (Louis Partridge) being hunted by a nameless killer.
Despite these shortcomings, Enola Holmes has its heart in the right place. It remains a fun, energetic adventure film propelled by a genuinely charming performance from Brown.
Enola Holmes releases on Netflix September 23rd.