Enola Holmes (2020) ☆☆☆(3/4): Her game is afoot indeed

Netflix film “Enola Holmes”, which was released yesterday, has lots of fun with its feministic response to the tales of one of the most famous detective characters in the history. Mainly fueled by the vibrantly plucky performance from its exceptional lead performer, the movie joyfully bounces from one narrative point to another before eventually arriving at its finale, and you may find yourself looking forward to watching its resilient and resourceful heroine’s next adventures.

Millie Bobby Brown, who has been mainly known for her electrifying Emmy-nominated breakthrough turn in Netflix TV series “Stranger Things”, plays Enola Holmes, the young sister of Sherlock Holmes who has grown up in a rural family house since she was very young. Despite what is indirectly suggested by her first name (It is “alone” spelled backwards, you know), she has never been alone under the caring guidance of her dear mother Eudoria (Helen Bonham Carter), and several early moments between them show us how well she has been home-schooled by her mother, who has taught many different things to Enola as constantly stimulating Enola’s intelligent mind.

However, Eudoria is suddenly gone in the early morning of Enola’s sixteenth birthday, though she left the birthday present for her daughter in advance. Quite baffled by her mother’s inexplicable disappearance, Enola tries to search for anything which may be a clue to her mother’s whereabouts, but she only gets more frustrated without much success, and now she has to meet her two older brothers, who will soon come from London to take care of this unexpected family matter of theirs.

Shortly after she arrives at a local train station, Enola encounters her older brothers, and they are not so pleased with how she has been taken care of by their mother. While Sherlock (Henry Cavill) appreciates a bit his younger sister’s free independent spirit nurtured by their feminist mother, his older brother Mycroft (Sam Claflin), who is your average Victorian gentleman, is aghast at how his younger sister looks and behaves, and, as having officially been the man of the house, he immediately prepares to take her to a finishing school for young ladies run by Miss Harrison (Fiona Shaw), who happens to be a very close friend of his.

Of course, Enola does not want to be sent to that finishing school at all, and she comes to discern how to get away from Mycroft and Sherlock as soon as possible. It turns out that her birthday present contains a few clues left by her mother, and it does not take much time for her to deduce where her mother hid something solely intended for her. Once she is fully prepared, she instantly leaves the house early in the morning, and then she is headed for London, which is certainly big, busy, and crowded enough for her to evade her two older brothers’ following search.

Enola’s initial prime objective is locating where the hell her mother is at present, but, of course, things become more complicated than expected when she inadvertently gets herself associated with the case of an adolescent nobleman named Viscount Lord Tewksbury (Louis Partridge). When they happen to come across each other for the first time by coincidence, Viscount Lord Tewksbury is simply running away from his stuffy domestic environment, but then he and Enola find themselves in a perilous situation, and it looks like there is some insidious plot against this young nobleman.

While the mystery surrounding the main plot is as elementary as many of those Sherlock Holmes stories, the screenplay by Jack Thorne, which is adapted from the first book of the Enola Holmes Mysteries by Nancy Springer, keeps things rolling as often delivering the enjoyable moments of female empowerment. For example, there is a clever and humorous scene where Enola purposefully comes to immerse herself into the traditional femininity of the Victorian era, and then we get an amusing scene where she visits a seemingly respectable spot belonging to one of her mother’s close feminist associates, who turns to be also running a training gym for a certain type of martial arts behind her back.

Above all, the movie is enlivened a lot by Brown’s indomitable screen presence. Occasionally confiding to us her character’s thought and feeling throughout the film, she effortlessly holds our attention with her own engaging qualities, and we gladly go along with her character’s bumpy adventure while also coming to root for her character a lot. At one certain point, Brown strongly impresses us with considerable maturity besides her natural confidence, and that certainly demonstrates to us again that she is already ready for more good things to come into her advancing acting career.

The other main cast members surrounding Brown in the film dutifully fill their respective spots without overshadowing her at all. While Henry Cavill and Sam Claflin are effective as Enola’s two contrasting older brothers, Fiona Shaw and Louis Partridge are also well-cast in their substantial supporting roles, and Helena Bonham Carter has her own small fun during her several juicy moments with Brown.

Directed Harry Bradbeer, who won two Emmys for directing and producing British TV comedy series “Fleabag” in last year, “Enola Holmes” is a competent piece of work thanks to its commendable production qualities, and it is certainly a promising beginning for possible sequels to follow. Yes, it is a bit too long especially during its second half which may be a little too intense for young audiences out there, but the movie is fairly satisfying on the whole, and I am really excited to see Brown advancing more as usual.

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