Women’s Empowerment: Respectful Reel Review #26 — Enola Holmes (2020)


Enola Holmes




Young Adult / Mystery / Crime


Millie Bobby Brown, Henry Cavill, Sam Claflin, Helena Bonham Carter, Louis Partridge, Burn Gorman, Adeel Akhtar, Susan Wokoma, Fiona Shaw


Harry Bradbeer


On the morning of her sixteenth birthday, Enola Homes, younger sister to Mycroft and Sherlock, finds that her mother has gone missing, decides to undertake her pursuit, and along the way involves herself in the investigation of a dangerous conspiracy involving a handsome, young lord, woman’s suffrage, and a vote that aspires to modernize England.


1. Mystery runs in the family.

2. Youngster. Rebel. Sleuth.


The movie opens with Enola Holmes breaking the fourth wall to speak to all the viewers to tell her story. She is the youngest sibling to the more famous Mycroft and Sherlock, but she is mostly inspired by her mother who has taught her to defy the social conventions of the day by educating Enola in subjects that the two decide upon mutually.

Obviously, just the idea of having a child make decisions about her own education was revolutionary during the Victorian Period. Even today (a more enlightened time one would hope) this would be considered a leftist, socialist concept. Among some of the subjects Enola has learned are jujitsu, archery, and tennis (we learn via voiced over montage.)

On the morning of Enola’s 16th birthday, she awakens to find that her mother has disappeared from the house, leaving her with birthday gifts, but with no explanation as to why she has gone. After meeting with her brothers, Mycroft is flustered by what he considers deviant behavior from both mother and Enola. Whereas Sherlock finds her amusingly intelligent.

Because Mycroft is the older brother, he is in fact the legal guardian of his sister who remains a minor in age. Resolved to send her to a finishing school, he invites Miss Harrison, the Head Mistress at the school to come speak with him about his sister. In the process, Miss Harrison interviews Enola, but when she smarts off, Miss Harrison slaps her. Understanding that this is what she is destined for, Enola decides to find her mother and find out why she left her.

Enola recognizes that her mother loves puzzles and believes that her mother has left her sufficient clues to determine where she has gone. Using her birthday gifts as a starting point, she determines that her mother has left her the monetary resources to pursue her, but in order to evade her brothers she disguises herself as a boy.

She takes the train, in order to get to London, but along the way she finds the Viscount Tewkesbury who has secreted himself in a travel bag. Despite not being overly impressed by him she does warn him that a man in a brown bowler hat is searching for him on the train.

When Linthorn (the man in the brown bowler hat) attempts to kill Tewksbury, Enola intercedes with the result being that they leap from the train. As they walk the countryside toward London, they get hungry, and Tewksbury is able to gather edible herbs and fungi to provide a satisfying meal.

Clearly, there is more to the story, and you can be sure that all the important factors to the narrative have already been introduced, but they are not necessarily combined in the ways one might already anticipate. Enola continues to disguise herself in ways that her brother Sherlock is impressed by. Linthorn continues to pursue Tewksbury and Enola continues to seek her mother. I will leave the plot here with a hope that you will watch, but wait, there is more.


I always begin with caveats. I am a Sherlock Holmes fan. I get annoyed when people attempt to use the character of Sherlock Holmes (with all of the implicit benefits and shorthand weight that the name carries) without earning the build-up that any character requires.

In fact, the Conan Doyle Estate sued Netflix in order to stop them from using the character because Cavill portrayed Sherlock as “too emotional.” The countersuit stated that the character was in the public domain and that the estate could not prevent the “fair use” of the character. Even so, they pared back some of the emotion and the lawsuit was dismissed with prejudice.

I gave my caveat and at the risk of seeming inconsistent, I think Cavill plays Sherlock perfectly. Enola is his sister, and she takes after him. He totally would have felt flattered by that. Yes, Holmes’ disdain for women is well-documented, but in the case of his younger sister, I think he would be different. Afterall, it’s not as if she demonstrates incapacity. She demonstrates that she is a force to be reckoned with.

The story is told with a post-modernist device of breaking the fourth wall that to my mind started with Scream (1996) and the found footage horror movie The Blair Witch Project (1999). I do not love either device, but I am forced to again concede that it is used to great effect in this movie to make Enola that much more loveable.

Listen, she is the smartest person in the room. Smarter than Sherlock. She is capable enough that when she is being beaten up by Linthorn, I was uncomfortable with how much of a beating she appears to be taking, but then she winks into the camera. She has a surprise for him, and it should not be a surprise to us. Afterall, she tells us in the beginning that her mother taught her jujitsu.

She could easily appear arrogant, but the writer of the book series, Nancy Springer, and the writer of the screenplay, Jack Thorne, allow Millie Bobby Brown to bring us into her world, slowly. With every soliloquy, the audience develops a deeper empathy for Enola. No wonder Sherlock is impressed. Oh, did I forget to mention that Millie Bobby Brown produced it?

Clearly, I loved this movie. I was impressed that it has a 91% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. It takes a lot to impress me. 76 million households watched this movie on Netflix over the course of its first four weeks of release. Many people watched this movie. Many people liked this movie. The cast is perfect. Helena Bonham Carter is mother, and I do not believe anyone could have played a more important ancillary character.

I think I will stop gushing, now. A sequel is supposed to release sometime this year. Consequently, I am going to rate this a 4 and a half Grey Geeks out of 5. We have to give the sequel a chance to be better. One can only hope.

2 thoughts on “Women’s Empowerment: Respectful Reel Review #26 — Enola Holmes (2020)

  1. You know I love a period film and this one didn’t disappoint. The character is witty with just enough sass to give her brothers the slip. I loved Henry Cavill in this film, I don’t like him as Superman put Sherlock fits him well. I too am anxiously waiting for the next one to air on Netflix.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It seems a lot of people liked this movie. Before writing the post, I watched it for a third time. I love it more each time I watch it. Millie Bobby Brown is going to be a force. In everything I see her in, the second she cries, my heart breaks.


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