In a world full of Disney princesses and watered down female characters, “Enola Holmes”, starring Millie Bobby Brown and Helena Bonham Carter, is exactly the kind of mystery movie young girls deserve. Witty, fast-paced and utterly British, the film engages viewers in a delicious mystery while speaking directly to themes explored by today’s youth.
The movie follows the experiences of Enola Holmes (Brown), the sister of famous Sherlock Holmes (Henry Cavill), who, along with her brother Myrcroft (Sam Claflin) have been completely absent in her life. From the first moment, Enola breaks the fourth wall, addressing the audience directly to explain she is searching for her intoxicatingly independent mother (Carter) who has gone missing.
Witty, fast-paced and utterly British, the film engages viewers in a delicious mystery while speaking directly to themes explored by today’s youth.
Left alone in the country house she was raised in, Enola hatches a plan to search for her mother, expressing over and over again that she couldn’t have simply disappeared. However, having heard their mother has gone missing, Mycroft shows up with other plans for her life. As Enola is his “ward”, Mycroft decides to send her to a boarding school where she will learn to be a proper society woman. Sherlock expresses his objections, pointing out how spirited and intelligent Enola has become, but in the end, he gives in to Myrcoft’s wishes.
Using the peculiar knowledge her mother bestowed on her, including things like how to create explosives and duel with hand-to-hand combat, Enola outsmarts her brothers. Disguised as a boy, she escapes to the train station and heads to London, where she believes her mother has gone. On the train, she runs into the handsome, surprisingly clever Viscount Tewkesbury (Louis Partridge), a noble who is running away from his family and the life forced upon him.
Much to Enola’s disappointment, she finds that Tewkesbury is being hunted by a mysterious man who is willing to kill him. Enola explains to the audience her weakness: caring too much for the seemingly innocent souls around her. The pair are able to escape from the man and despite her mission, Enola befriends Tewkesbury, promising to see him safely to London where they will part ways.
Along the way, Enola and Tewkesbury find themselves infatuated with one another, recognizing the knowledge they both possess, their individual misconceptions of the world and their shared sadness having both lost a parent at a young age. Although they part ways in London, Enola finds herself abandoning the search for her mother when she is fought and almost killed by the same man they encountered on the train. Realizing how vulnerable Tewkesbury is, Enola sets off to find him.
Through her intelligence and determination, Enola solves the mystery of who wants Tewkesbury dead, outsmarts Sherlock and is emancipated from Mycroft, her legal guardian. However, her mother’s disappearance is a puzzle Enola can’t quite solve.
It is important to note Enola’s name was given to her by her wordsmith mother. Spelled backwards, it reads “alone”. Throughout the film, Enola contemplates what it means to be alone, surprising herself when she simply cannot leave people behind, even if it means abandoning her plans. She discovers the freedom of solitude and the comforts of having a friend close by, deciding she needs a life that includes both.
As a child, her mother often told her “the future is up to us”, a saying that becomes the mantra of the movie as Enola reclaims her independence from her brothers and society. Although they never explain exactly what her mother is doing, Enola finds clues throughout the film that suggest she is participating in some militant form of protest while taking the future into her own hands. In a brief reunion at the end of the film, Enola receives closure from her mother as they both decide they must go their separate ways to pursue their own paths and the movie sets audiences up for a possible sequel.
Directed by little-known Harry Bradbeer and released by Netflix, expectations for the movie were not high. However, the film is quite the success, receiving a 90% approval rating from Rotten Tomatoes. With whimsical charm and strong characters, the film gives young audiences a taste of unabashed feminism and encourages addressing social norms head on. “The future is up to us”, and this movie serves as an entertaining reminder of the power each individual possesses.