Review: Millie Bobby Brown’s “Enola Holmes” showcases a new heroine

Millie Bobby Brown brings Enola Holmes to life in the new Netflix film of the same name. Photo courtesy of IMDb.

By Camille Rasor | Arts & Life Editor

One look at Millie Bobby Brown and most are immediately reminded of scenes with Stranger Things’ Eleven lifting a car with the powers of her mind and tossing it to the side with a flick of the wrist. In her new role as Enola Holmes in the Netflix film by the same name released Wednesday, Brown has endeared us to a whole new character who is unconventional, outcast and headstrong, but in a completely different way.

Enola is raised in a progressive home during the late nineteenth century by her widowed mother played by the ever-captivating Helena Bonham Carter. Her older brothers, Mycroft and Sherlock, have moved away from home and don’t return until they hear of their mother’s disappearance on Enola’s 16th birthday.

Enola soon learns that Mycroft, who is her legal guardian, disapproves of her carefree upbringing, and he intends to send her to a finishing school to learn to be a proper lady. Enola wants no part of this traditional life and disguises herself, runs away and learns that she is quite a sleuth like her brother Sherlock.

From the first scene, Brown breaks the fourth wall as a mode of narrative exposition, and in doing so she helps the audience easily understand the plot (chocked full of twists and turns as any good Holmes movie should be) while giving Brown a chance to develop her lively, curious, sometimes-sarcastic character.

Enola finds comfort in her reunion with her older brother, Sherlock, who is portrayed much differently from recent screen adaptations. This Sherlock struggles with his responsibility in Enola’s life as a much older brother, and he is not completely out of touch with society as other portrayals make him seem.

Though at the beginning of the film, Sherlock cautions Enola against “unnecessary” displays of emotion, in the end, he softens. Also, it is Enola’s emotional intelligence that keeps her a few steps ahead of her brothers who are looking for both her and their mother.

“Enola Holmes” is a coming-of-age film that explores the internal conflict of a young woman caught between society’s vision for her life and her own. Though she yearns to be completely unreliant on the men in her life, Enola struggles with what it might look like to develop a sibling relationship with Sherlock who virtually abandoned her at such a young age. Additionally, when a young boy also striking out on his own interrupts her plans to find her mother, she struggles with what moral responsibility she might hold in saving this boy from imminent danger.

The film opens up a lot of discussions about politics, gender roles, power dynamics, familial relationships, responsibility and independence. However, with all its many themes, the movie never attempts to tie up these ideas in a nice, neat package, nor does it overburden itself. The experience of watching Enola’s escapades is unfailingly fun and exciting, a whodunnit that lives up to the Holmes experience we’ve all come to know and love.

Though the film concludes in a way that leaves audiences satisfied, it leaves a lot of these big discussions unfinished. Based on the first book in a series by Nancy Springer, this stand-alone film could easily turn into a franchise. There is so much left unanswered about these characters and their paths forward that Enola’s fans hope to see explored in the future.