'Enola Holmes' and the case of Millie Bobby Brown's infinity pool of talent
Courtesy of Netflix
According the Guinness World Records, Sherlock Holmes is one of the most portrayed literary characters of all time. Many adaptations have seen an array of actors step into the shoes of the famous detective created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, both in recent films (Robert Downey Jr.) and television series (Jonny Lee Miller and Benedict Cumberbatch). The character has also inspired some literary spinoffs: Eve Titus created the Basil of Baker Street series, and beginning in 2006, Nancy Springer released her own series called The Enola Holmes Mysteries. The latter book series captured the heart of Stranger Things breakout star Millie Bobby Brown, to the point that she and her older sister Paige were inspired to produce their own film adaptation. Years later, that dream has manifested into one of the latest Netflix films, Enola Holmes: a fun and witty action romp that solidifies Brown as a star and a force in Hollywood to be reckoned with.
In the film, Brown plays the titular character, the much younger sister of Sherlock (Henry Cavill) and Mycroft Holmes (Sam Claflin). Having already been adults by the time of her birth in the late 1800s, Enola barely has any relationship with her elder brothers and is solely raised by her mother (Helena Bonham Carter), who teaches her to be an independent thinker and a self-reliant young woman, bucking the societal trends for ladies of the period in which she grew up. On her sixteenth birthday, Enola wakes up to discover that her mother has gone missing, only leaving behind a few strange gifts. Upon hearing the news, Sherlock and Mycroft return home and balk at the cumbersome state of their sister and estate. They seek to send Enola off to a finishing school to learn proper ladies’ etiquette, much to her dismay. Enola resolves to find her mother, escaping her brothers’ custody and setting off to London, where she becomes embroiled with political affairs and a young runaway boy (Louis Partridge).
Brown has always been a standout in her projects, garnering multiple Emmy nominations for her role in Stranger Things. In Enola, she gets an opportunity to showcase a wider range of skills. She fully inhabits the character and immediately imbues her with charm, cunning, courage, and humor; as Enola breaks the fourth wall throughout the film, Brown’s comedic timing is impeccable. Most impressive is the depth of emotions she brings. Whether she is in solitude or in defiance of her brothers, Brown’s acting consistently reminds us that throughout it all, Enola is still a young lady in search of her way in the world, left behind by the one person who means the most to her.
The supporting players all do fantastic jobs in their roles as well. As a Sherlock Holmes fan myself, I was particularly curious about his portrayal going into the film. The character is written as significantly more caring and compassionate than in any other adaptation I’ve seen (apparently there is legal reasoning for that), and it’s a bit unsettling at first. However, Cavill is the physical embodiment of charisma, and he will eventually wear you down and get you to love him no matter what role he plays. Make no mistake about it, though—this is Brown’s film through and through. She owns every scene and every beat. In a Hollywood landscape filled with endless remakes and sequels, I don’t often clamor for one more. In this case, though, I would love to see what Brown can do with more adventures and even more mysteries to solve.