'Enola Holmes' Is a Basic Guide to Feminism Loosely Draped in Mystery

Enola Holmes isn't about the mystery. Sherlock Holmes' little sister, Enola, takes on a life, and adventure, of her own in the new Netflix film starring Millie Bobby Brown, but it doesn't follow in the footsteps of the legendary detective. Instead, it's about a more unconventional detective with no one but herself to rely on, especially when it comes to her famous brothers' takes on women's rights.

Long-time mystery fans may be looking at the film to embody the things they love about the Sherlock stories that have been plastered throughout society's mystery framework for years. If that's the case, they'll certainly be disappointed. But coming in with an open mind is the key to truly relishing this period romp.

Enola Holmes sees Sherlock, played by Henry Cavill, as a bit of an enigma, a career man that seems to only care about his work life. Left behind after her mother Euphonia (Helena Bonham Carter) 16-year-old Enola Holmes cries out for the right to her independence, which is stifled by her proper brothers, Mycroft and Sherlock, her seniors by decades.

Enola Holmes
Millie Bobby Brown as Enola Holmes. Legendary

But Enola is far from a person who will submit to the demands of others. She runs away on a quest to find her runaway mother...or maybe a quest to find herself...or to help a handsome if naive Marquess pursued by killers. Her motives shift, throughout the film, which has an ever-winding plot, not necessarily loose but not quite cohesive, either. While there are large goals at hand, the message of Enola seems to be that of Enola herself: a brave, independent girl in a time of global repression. The common thread is the girl and her unique connection with the audience.

The heart of the film is feminism and the 16-year-old budding detective who is, undeniably, a feminist without even knowing the word. It's perfected in the direct address to camera which, like in Amazon's Fleabag, which allow the protagonist to speak candidly to the audience even in moments of turmoil. Enola is the best friend to the viewer, the target age group of teens who may seriously relate to her desire to be her own person. Though the story around her moves quickly, Enola's personality is preserved in camera eye contact which reveals her every reaction, from winks to fear, to youthful infatuation.

Enola's adventures are endless, with a few near brushes with death, clues that seem to represent her mother's location, and more. But the mystery falls to the wayside of Enola's own character development. There's no resolve. Though, spoiler, she apparently discovers her mother's secret life, Enola and her mother's story is not nearly as important as her own decision to step into society as an independent girl, rather than succumb to her brother's wishes for her proper, delayed upbringing. It could have been a mother-daughter film. Rather, it's a film about independence, a film about being alone: the very meaning of Enola's name.

The root of the film is strength and determination. Which brings us back to the idea of feminism, and the anti-Disney princess storyline that Brown embodies. Enola is the savior of those around her throughout the film.

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Enola Holmes (R) sees her adult brothers for the first time in years. ALEX BAILEY/LEGENDARY

A parallel storyline teases political unrest, which wants to see women represented as equal. But Enola dances through storylines that watch her put one foot in oppression, before promising to be the hero of her design. It's just enough of the political air for a younger audience, who many not yet completely care about the inner workings of a system that caters to the interest of wealthy men. Enola Holmes's plot serves as a beginner's guide to feminism and presents a rough-around-the-edges young woman who won't for a second be caught up in the patriarchy's nonsense.

Early in the film, Sherlock disappoints the audience when he says, about Enola's reaction to being sent away to school and to her mother's disappearance, "You're getting emotional," he says. "It's understandable but unnecessary." Later in the film, Enola spikes the line back with a kindhearted vengeance. The off-screen character development of Sherlock seems to paint him, later, as a supportive brother. Though, this only seemingly appears after he's seen a bit of himself in his younger sister.

Moments left off-screen aren't completely, rare, either. Enola is constantly steps ahead of the world-renowned Sherlock, but viewers rarely see his hunt. He's just a shadow of a man who reads the newspaper and sips whiskey, later to be found as having traced all of the same steps as his younger, more cunning sister.

In a way, it's nice. Sherlock's character in the film seems only to serve as proof that Enola is successful; and as a controversial statement that a woman can get farther if those around her assume she's on the coattails of a professional man. Enola proves she doesn't need her brother's skills, though she's inspired by them nonetheless.

The charismatic force that is Enola serves as a consistently fun place to land but may have been better suited in an episodic sense, one that could give air to her every move, rather than acceleration. The character development left off-screen had potential for thick storylines, emotional moments and even more comedy. Regardless, it's an enjoyable watch if you're not looking to take your movie night too seriously.

Enola Holmes likely set the stage for a second film, and we'd be happy to see it. The first film is worth a watch if you're looking for a witty, lighthearted look into the life of a girl who refuses to be stopped, be it by family or by society's idea of what a girl should be.