Netflix’s latest book-to-movie adaptation “Enola Holmes”, based on “The Enola Holmes Mysteries” by author Nancy Springer, follows the eponymous young heroine (Millie Bobby Brown) on multiple daring escapes and a few near death experiences as she quests to find her vanished mother (Helena Bonham Carter), all while at the heart of a deadly mystery to do with a missing marquess (Louis Partridge). The film’s most defining features are its nearly all-star cast, its vague late-nineteenth century setting, and the lead’s charming asides to the audience.
To those having grown up with the children’s books of the early aughts, Enola Holmes is all the right kinds of nostalgic, most potently in its depiction of a clever young girl chasing adventure (or rather, being chased by adventure) and having to step in where the adults in her life seem less than capable or interested, even. To those having suffered through the various Arthur Conan Doyle adaptations of the past decade or so, Enola Holmes is a sweet reprieve from the usual depiction of the Sherlock character as charming in his “accidental” condescension, misogyny and even cruelty, forgivable for his eccentric genius. To put it plainly, the movie is fast-paced, hugely entertaining and teases interesting aspects of the Holmes family unit.
However, could the film do better? The movie’s only black character in the principal cast, Edith (most likely in reference to Edith Margaret Garrud, professional “suffrajitsu” instructor), is given a singular moment of empowerment when she takes Sherlock to task about his ability to remain disengaged from the world of politics, in contrast to the disenfranchised who are not afforded the same choice. A powerful sentiment — no doubt more than relevant today — but it still manages to fall flat within the larger narrative of the movie. This bit of dialog only stands as a line to make Enola’s bildungsroman more poignant, while neglecting to follow up on the implications of it for someone like Edith.