Saturday, October 3, 2020

REVIEW: Enola Holmes (live action movie)

Enola Holmes is a historical mystery movie based on Nancy Springer's Middle Grade book The Case of the Missing Marquess, the first in Springer's Enola Holmes series. The movie is a Netflix Original.


When Enola Holmes was very young, her father died and her brothers, Mycroft and Sherlock, went off to live their own lives, leaving her and her mother alone together. Enola's mother had very unique ideas about how to raise a young girl, and so instead of having a governess and learning how to be a proper young lady, Enola instead read every book in the family library, learned to fight, and solved cryptograms and word jumbles.

And then, on the morning of her sixteenth birthday, Enola's mother vanishes. She clearly left of her own free will, and Enola is distraught - she had thought she and her mother were happy together, so why did her mother leave her behind? Mycroft and Holmes arrive in order to assess the situation and deal with her. Mycroft intends to send Enola to a finishing school and Holmes clearly intends to stand back and let him. In the nick of time, Enola discovers some messages her mother left for her and escapes to London, hoping to track her mother down herself. While doing this, she becomes embroiled in another mystery, that of the missing young Viscount Tewkesbury.

I haven't yet read the book this was based on, although I intend to do so. I've heard that it's fairly different from this movie, so there's a possibility that I might like it better.

The previews made this look like fun, with a smart and capable heroine who was possibly working with her older brother, Sherlock Holmes. Unfortunately, the movie didn't really work for me. The fourth wall breaking (Enola often stopped to talk to and wink at the audience) was off-putting, Enola didn't seem nearly as smart and capable as viewers were told she was, Mycroft was awful, and although Henry Cavill was charming and looked good, he was in no way believable as Sherlock Holmes.

Viewers were told that Enola was a smart girl who'd spent her entire life being prepared to be independent - to rely on her own brains, guts, and strength. However, when she was actually on her own her behavior and abilities proved disappointing. She told a random pretty boy she'd basically just met a good chunk of her life story, waved money around while in London and practically begged to be betrayed and lied to, and figured out most of the mystery of the missing Viscount Tewkesbury but missed the crucial last bit and almost ended up dead because of it. 

I appreciated that Enola wasn't instantly able to outfight a grown man who had actual experience killing people, but it would have been nice if she'd at least been as brilliant as she was supposed to be. Near the end, Lestrade poked at Sherlock for figuring out all the details about the missing Viscount Tewkesbury case after Enola and Tewkesbury had already made it to the police, like this was evidence that Enola was sharper than Sherlock. However, Sherlock managed to correctly deduce the entire thing, including the last crucial bit, without even spending much time with any of the people involved. Enola, meanwhile, was the thick of it and the villain basically had to walk up to her and tell her everything. From what I could tell, Enola's abilities seemed to be limited to swapping letters around in her head and occasionally having perfect recall of certain past events but not, apparently, all of the books she'd supposedly read.

I got confused at the "escape from the finishing school" bit (when and how did Enola get out of that chest without being noticed?), and it seemed like the mystery of Enola's missing mother just sort of petered out after Enola discovered what she was doing (her mother's plans were apparently never put into effect, and neither Enola nor Sherlock made a move to try to stop her in any case), overshadowed by the Viscount Tewkesbury stuff. At least the romance didn't quite go in the direction I expected.

Like I said, I still want to try the book. I wish this movie had been better, though.

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