We’re really spoiled for choice in the arena of online entertainment but, even so, it can be hard to find something to watch that’s enjoyable, thoughtful and accessible for the whole family — enter, Enola Holmes.
Fans of the original Sherlock Holmes series by Arthur Conan Doyle will know that he never wrote about Sherlock having a little sister. However, in 2006, writer Nancy Springer introduced us to the spritely female detective with the launch of her Enola Holmes novel series.
Adapted from Nancy’s first story, The Case of the Missing Marquess, Enola Holmes is about the young investigator’s first case and the challenges she faces being a woman in a male-dominated world.
Enola (Mille Bobby Brown) has been raised solely by her eclectic mother Eudoria (Helena Bonham Carter), after her father passed and her older brothers moved away to pursue their professional careers. When her mother disappears, Enola’s brothers return to help solve the case and see to it that Enola is properly trained to enter society as a lady. Not one to be shaped by society’s whims, Enola escapes to find her mother herself, and comes across a young marquess whose life is under threat.
Just as Sherlock captured the imagination of a generation and continues to celebrate people who see the world differently, Enola is set to be a hero for her time.
In casting Millie Bobby Brown (Stranger Things), the creators have already set off on the right foot with an in-built fan base who’ll become diehard followers of a possible franchise. And in Enola, they’ve got a character who speaks the language of modern viewers, knowing what it’s like to be watched by others and live your life surrounded by commentators.
…the more Enola gets caught up in her case and the needs of others the less she talks to the camera. Could it be that she was just too busy for us? Or is it an intentional reflection on our relationship to people and technology?
Bringing the Holmes family into the social media saturated world, Enola Holmes happily breaks the fourth wall with its lead talking directly to viewers, using her own animation to explain her story and include them in the action – a requirement of any true ‘influencer’.
Interestingly, if you indulge in reading between the lines, the more Enola gets caught up in her case and the needs of others the less she talks to the camera. Could it be that she was just too busy for us? Or is it an intentional reflection on our relationship to people and technology?
Enola combines a love of science and literature with a rambunctious enthusiasm for adventure and fun. She’s well-read and caring, and the very picture of a forthright but sensitive heroine. Core to her story is her name that you quickly learn spelled backwards is ‘alone’, and the question of whether or not ‘alone’ is the best way to survive the world is a frequent one for Enola and the missing marquess.
The movie presents young girls with an example of what it means to “choose your own story, or the one the world writes for you”, dabbling in some political commentary about gender roles.
Most obviously expressed in a brief exchange between Sherlock Holmes and Enola’s former teacher Edith (an African English woman with an, “extremely banned” collection of books):
Edith: Enola is on her own path… You haven’t any hope of understanding any of this.
Sherlock: Educate me as to why.
Edith: Because you don’t know what it is to be without power; politics doesn’t interest you, why?
Sherlock: Because it’s fatally boring.
Edith: …because you have no interest in changing a world that suits you so well.
Sherlock: A pretty speech.
Edith: A scary one. You’re intelligent enough to know that every word of it is true.
This is the most culturally-pointed scene of Enola Holmes which, while encouraging viewers to find strength in going against the grain, isn’t trying to exhaust audiences with opinion.
Enola Holmes has landed Netflix in hot water though, with the company being sued for portraying a version of Sherlock that’s too emotional and kind toward women – an aspect of Sherlock’s character that contradicts the way Doyle portrayed him in the era Enola Holmes is set in. Given Sherlock asked a woman to “educate him” and is played by the ever-charming Henry Cavill, they may have a case.
Sherlock, however, isn’t the focus of this tale, it’s all Enola. And, Enola leads a mystery that’ll hold your attention, make you smile and be innocent enough for younger viewers to watch alongside adults who like a bit of grit and intrigue.
Enola Holmes is streaming on Netflix now. Rated M