Millie Bobby Brown’s lead performance as the titular detective makes Enola Holmes a charming and genuine mystery-adventure film worth the watch.
We’ll be honest – despite her massive shoot to stardom thanks to her breakout role in Netflix’s hit series Stranger Things, we’ve never been 100% sold on Millie Bobby Brown.
Sure, she’s great as Eleven, but her filmography (up until this point) never really included any meaty roles for her to sink her teeth into and really show her range – until now. Despite being surrounded by huge stars like Henry Cavill, Sam Clafin, and Helena Bonham Carter, Brown is absolutely the star of the show in Enola Holmes, and her endlessly charming performance leads the film to victory.
Starring Brown as the titular young detective, Enola Holmes follows the journey of Sherlock Holmes’ younger sister Enola, who leaves her sheltered life in the countryside to chase after her mother who has suddenly gone missing. Along the way, she meets a young runaway viscount (Louis Partridge), whom she eventually helps escape from a dastardly murder plot involving a mysterious assassin (Burn Gorman). Impeding her journey at regular intervals are her older brothers Sherlock (Henry Cavill) and Mycroft (Sam Clafin), both of whom are hot on her tail and trying to track her down before she finds her mother.
Far and away, what makes this movie work more than anything else is Millie Bobby Brown’s leading performance. As we mentioned, we had never really seen a truly star-making performance from her (despite all the acclaim she received for Stranger Things), but her performance in Enola Holmes entirely turned our opinion around on her. Although the film’s frequent fourth-wall-breaking could’ve leaned too hokey 80s movie if done incorrectly, the wit and sense of humor she brings to the role makes the little interludes feel much more in the vein of Fleabag for teens.
Brown has an impressive ability to deliver even the most convoluted of victorian dialogue (a key quality, especially when portraying a Holmes) in a way that doesn’t make her character annoying or a know-it-all – instead, she has that difficult-to-master balance of ego and charm that we all known in love ina Holmes character. However, it’s not just her ability to handle dialogue and wit that makes her so great – she also grounds the film with incredible emotional depth – without the success of her emotional nuance, the film simply would not work.
Underneath all of the mystery and the chase scenes and the quirky Holmesian dialogue, is a story about a lonely young woman on a search for her mother, and Brown’s chemistry with Helena Bonham Carter flows naturally in a beautiful, believably way. It’s no small feat to hold your own (and outshine, even) such an accomplished character actress, but Brown absolutely commands the screen – this is her film, no doubt about it.
Supporting her, though, is an ensemble cast in just as strong form. Helena Bonham Carter as the missing mother in question makes brief appearances at the film’s beginning and end, but as always, she brings her usual charm and off-kilter veracity to the role – which works especially well as the single mother who raised three incredibly odd children. Speaking of her children, Henry Cavill has to be the most unlikely choice for Sherlock Holmes that we’ve ever seen – but somehow, it works.
When we think of the iconic detective, we don’t typically think of muscles so big that Sherlock looks like he’s about to burst out of his stuffy victorian clothing at any given moment, but that’s what you get with Cavill’s incarnation – plus some deliciously curly hair that we hope he sports in more films going forward. However, once you get past the beautiful greek god exterior and focus on the character – Cavill is very compelling as Sherlock Holmes.
It’s rare that Sherlock is characterized as the empathetic voice of reason, but between the three Holmes siblings, that’s the role he fills here – playing “good cop” across from the more misogynistic and closed-minded Mycroft. He still has his moments of detective genius, of course, but never in a way that overshadows Enola – which we greatly appreciate.
Sam Clafin is a little less noteworthy as Mycroft, whose stuffy characterization is taken up a notch and makes him what’s basically the film’s secondary antagonist. He says the wrong thing at every turn – he’s misogynistic, classist, and incredibly apathetic – but just what the film needed to truly highlight and play off of Enola’s strengths.
The rest of the cast is filled out by Louis Partridge as the runaway Viscount, who is serviceably charming but nothing particularly noteworthy, as well as Burn Gorman as the intimidating but one-note “Linthorn”, the film’s big bad wolf. Frances de la Tour and Fiona Shaw are also present, but the only other standout performance of note is Susie Wokoma as Edith, a cohort of Enola’s mother who steals any scene she’s in, and whose character has some of the best dialogue in the entire film.
Although at times we wondered if the relatively simplistic premise really warranted a two-hour runtime (there’s a storyline where Enola goes to a finishing school that probably could’ve been removed from the film entirely with no resulting loss), Enola Holmes is for the most part paced incredibly well, and never really lags.
Between it’s bright, cheeky tone, witty dialogue, strong supporting cast, and impressive lead performance from Millie Bobby Brown, Enola Holmes is a charming action-mystery film with enough twists, turns, and heart to satisfy almost anyone.
What’s your favorite Sherlock Holmes movie? Are you a fan of Millie Bobby Brown? Sound off in the comments below.