Cast: Millie Bobby Brown, Henry Cavill, Helena Bonham Carter, Fiona Shaw Genre: Action/adventure, Mystery
In this most challenging year for the film industry, one could be hard-pressed to think of many movies up to this point with universal appeal to nearly every member of the family.
So far, the few memorable releases have either been too violent, too adult in content or far too close to pornography to be enjoyed by all audiences.
But now, on Netflix, we’ve got something that can be appreciated by everyone from pre-teens and young adults to octogenarians (and beyond) of all genders. The new film “Enola Holmes” is delightful, movie-genre-hopping fun for all ages – an amusing action/adventure mystery, that’s also a period piece, with a teenage protagonist and an inoffensive women’s empowerment message, featuring the most famous fictional detective in the entire history of the world.
The film is based on The Enola Holmes Mysteries, the young adult fiction book series created by author Nancy Springer in 2006. The books are a spinoff from novels featuring Sherlock Homes, the world-renowned character who first appeared in Arthur Conan Doyle’s 1887 detective story “A Study in Scarlet”. Of course, Sherlock has been featured in countless movies and television series ever since.
Enola is Sherlock’s little sister, and at only 16, there is a wide gap in their ages. In this inaugural outing, while searching for her missing mother, the intrepid teen uses her sleuthing skills to outsmart big brother Sherlock and help a runaway lord.
“Enola Holmes” features a number of storylines – and that’s plural because there are indeed quite a few things happening. Like an episodic series, we’ve got family drama, an actual mystery case to solve and insights into understanding and navigating the sensibilities of the Victorian/Edwardian era in England.
While none of those stories involves any theme particularly groundbreaking or earth-shattering, they are pleasant enough, and come together to form a cohesive and visually-arresting production that can induce smiles from the very first minute to the very end.
Adding to the experience is a sense of authenticity. Directed by Harry Bradbeer (who won an Emmy last year for Outstanding Director for the comedy series “Fleabag”, which also won the Outstanding Comedy award), the script from Jack Thorne (“Wonder”) is light, fast-paced, witty and clever. It also feels modern, but never too modern, wisely avoiding the pitfalls of other similar period flicks, which often try to shoehorn contemporary storylines (and music and odd effects) into a setting from a bygone era.
However, above all, the greatest pleasures from “Enola Holmes” come from the fantastic cast.
At only 16, Millie Bobby Brown is well established for her amazing performances on the Netflix TV series “Stranger Things”, and has already received two Emmy nominations for Best Supporting Actress for her role as Eleven. Her spirited performance here as the title character will cement her status an actress from which we can expect many great things in the future.
Brown is surrounded by an incredible supporting cast, including Superman himself, Henry Cavill, and the incomparable Helena Bonham Carter, along with Fiona Shaw, Burn Gorman and many others well known for their legendary film and television performances.
There’s a lot for almost everyone to like about “Enola Holmes”. Hopefully, there’ll be more motion pictures featuring this character, especially with Brown playing the role.
And if those films keep this same energy and quality level, Enola could end up being the most famous member of the Holmes family.
• Dwight Strachan is the host/producer of “Morning Blend” on Guardian Radio and station manager. He is a television producer and writer, and an avid TV history and film buff. Email email@example.com and follow him on twitter @morningblend969.