Now that Henry Cavill has played Sherlock Holmes, does that mean that Benedict Cumberbatch or Robert Downey Jr. are going to play Superman? It would only be the fair thing to do. Although, they’d have to play him as a side character in another person’s film. For Cavill is mere a bit player in Netflix’s adaptation of Nancy Springer’s YA series about his younger sister. It has garnered an awful lot of attention thanks to the fact that Stranger Thing‘s Millie Bobby Brown has been cast in the main role. Brown has become quite the darling since she became Eleven. There was little doubt that people would rave about his film but how much of it is about her rather than the film? I guess I had to find out for myself.
Do you want to know the moment when I knew that I wasn’t on board with this film? I suspected that it wasn’t for me as soon as I heard about it. That suspicion only grew after the trailer was released. But the exact moment I knew was when the character of Enola Holmes, the equally brilliant younger sister of Sherlock Holmes, used “hence why” in a sentence. Is it pedantic? Absolutely. Stubborn? Of course. But is there any explanation for why a young woman with a brilliant mind would make this basic but grave grammatical error? No. That was an error of a bad writer and a lack of attention to detail. If this was the kind of thing that they were allowing to make it into the film, what worse things would occur?
Well, it depends how angry you get about predictable stories that have been told countless times before. If you remove the name Holmes from this film, it is the same old kind of thing. Enola Holmes, younger sister of Sherlock and Mycroft, is raised by their mother, Eudoria. When Eudoria goes missing, Enola faces a future learning to be a lady, something she really doesn’t want. So, she sets off for London to find her missing mother. Along the way, she stumbles into another mystery involving the foppish Tewkesbury. Will she allow herself to get distracted or will she keep to the task of finding her mother?
Now, I get that this is the first feature film by Fleabag director Harry Bradbeer but did we have to break the fourth wall? I absolutely hated the fact that Enola spoke to the audience all the time. If there’s one thing that breaks the momentum and fucks with the pace, it’s a self-aware narrator. I know that Ryan Reynolds and Phoebe Waller-Bridge make it seem easy but it’s not. In this case, it feels childish and distracting. Something that wouldn’t be so bad if this film wasn’t already jam-packed. This film tries to do so much and it feels a bit messy.
It’s not the worst thing I’ve ever seen though. Millie Bobby Brown is charming enough in the main role and clearly has a lot of fun. It’s not that this isn’t a watchable film but it just feels tired. There’s nothing to wow here. The money has clearly gone into getting the cast and creating some slick visuals. It looks great but it lacks something. Something that both Sherlock and Guy Ritchie’s films both have. It just feels empty. There’s the feminism checklist to cross off and then there’s the YA romance to shoehorn in. Everything else just gets smothered. It’s not as good as the hype would have us believe.
Although, what annoys me about Enola Holmes is the final sentiments of the film. The one that suggests that Enola is neither her brother or her mother. She is entirely original. But is she? After all, she is essentially a copy of a much-loved literary character but with a gender switch. I know that we need more strong female characters in films but is this the way to do it? By giving a male character a different name and face? Is this the limit of society’s creativity that a female can only inhabit a space that is already inhabited by a man?
After all, for all this film does to prove it is a feminist retelling, it is still heavily reliant on Sherlock Holmes. The great detective needs to exist in order to give Enola legitimacy. It is only through Sherlock’s acceptance and praise that the audience is able to see her worth. The only way that the audience is convinced of her worth is because Sherlock is there to tell us. Especially because Enola doesn’t actually do that much detecting. There are a couple of codes to break but her skills mainly come down to being good at anagrams. This is a common theme with Sherlock these days. He’s no longer shown solving clues. Instead, we just hear people talk about how great he is. I ask you, what’s the point?
Also, how dare this film do Mycroft so dirty? It’s an absolute disgrace.