The (Boring) Game Is Afoot In “Enola Holmes”


Sebastian Hunt, The Forum's Head Writer of Film and TV


As far as late-night, not-really-paying-attention viewing goes, one could certainly do worse than Netflix’s Enola Holmes. It’s not really bad — producer/star Millie Bobby Brown is certainly charming. But it is not very good, either. Enola Holmes is every streaming skeptic’s idea of a “Netflix film”: fluffy, fleeting and forgettable.

Drawing loosely from a mildly popular YA book series, Enola Holmes follows Sherlock Holmes’ younger sister, the titular Enola Holmes (played by Brown). Living in isolation with her mother (Helena Bonham Carter), Enola’s lifestyle is thrown into disarray once her mother goes missing. Desperate to avoid the tutelary clutches of her older brother Mycroft (Sam Claflin), Enola embarks on a quest to find her mother while London undergoes an important political transformation.

Brown’s Enola is certainly the highlight, though perhaps that’s because none of the supporting characters are especially well-drawn. Louis Partridge’s Viscount Tewksbury, for instance, feels bizarre and out-of-place. Partridge’s Viscount is Enola Holmes’ closest equivalent to a John H. Watson-esque sidekick, yet Partridge (despite being integral to the film’s central mystery) isn’t afforded much in the way of believable characterization and distorts the film’s focus.

Speaking of original Sherlock Holmes figures, Henry Cavill portrays the World’s Greatest Detective himself. Cavill, to put it bluntly, is a block of wood. In addition to channeling zero real onscreen presence/charisma, Cavill is distractingly muscular and produces unintentional comedy when he’s forced to don the various suits and costumes that Sherlock Holmes is known for. In fact, Cavill’s ongoing struggle to breathe in the tight-looking getups the filmmakers are fitting him with is probably the most compelling ‘storyline’ in the film.

Jack Thorne (Wonder, The Secret Garden) pens the script. While occasionally complex in its thematic presentation, Thorne’s screenplay ultimately relies on spoon-feeding to get its (albeit positive) messages across. The direction, courtesy of Killing Eve’s Harry Bradbear, is fine. The action scenes are surprisingly engaging, however.

I didn’t totally dislike Enola Holmes — Brown is good, the action isn’t too shabby, and there are a handful of notable beats and twists. Enola Holmes is, as aforementioned, essentially laundry-room viewing. It’s fine to “have on” while completing a chore, or just as something to watch five minutes prior to dozing off. Otherwise, though, I can’t recommend prioritizing this one over the dozens of superior on-demand titles.