The future is up to Enola Holmes: meet the youngest and boldest Holmes sibling

October 2, 2020

One shouldn’t be surprised that “Enola Holmes” is now Netflix’s most watched movie: the film is charming, refreshing and stars a powerhouse cast. Enola Holmes, the youngest and only sister of the famous Mycroft (Sam Claflin) and Sherlock Holmes (Henry Cavill), sets off on a daring and epic quest to find her eccentric missing mother (Helena Bonham Carter). The film itself is an adaptation of the “Enola Holmes” YA series by Nancy Springer, released back in 2006-2010. Given the plot of the film, we can safely assume that the film is an adaptation of the first “Enola Holmes” book, leaving the possibility for a sequel that’s likely to come given the success and delightfulness of the first film. “Enola Holmes” is, by all counts, a bright film to escape to, and the audience will finish the movie feeling the same youthfulness and optimism that Enola herself brings to her own world. 

Right from the beginning of the movie, we know that Enola (Millie Bobby Brown) and her mother Eudoria share a close bond. Enola’s father passed away when she was rather young, and Sherlock and Mycroft were already fully grown men or moved out of the house before they could properly get to know her. In their absence, Eudoria teaches her daughter anything and everything under the sun: science, literature, combat, all of which are subjects that are certainly not proper for a young Victorian lady, as the narrow-minded Mycroft later points out. 

Due to Eudoria’s disappearance, the Holmes brothers return home, and they’re met with several tasks: Mycroft, being the eldest, sets upon himself to give Enola a “proper” education, one that requires her to learn skills that would make her a wife. Sherlock, on the other hand, is a little more reluctant to see Enola so quickly stuffed away, but he is careful, weighing out each matter of the situation at hand like the detective—and concerned older brother—he is. 

However, Enola, our ever brave protagonist, resents the idea and runs away from both her brothers in an effort to find her mother herself. A refreshing element of the story is that Enola never doubts her strengths and smarts: she proves time and time again that she knows how to decipher codes, hold off an attacker and do all kinds of daring things that would probably leave the rest of Victorian high society clutching their pearls. Enola is terrific, and the simple truth is that she unapologetically knows it—she matter-of-factly discusses her plan and why it will positively work, winks to the camera when she’s about to trick the villain and overall has little moments of acknowledging that she is, in fact, clever. These little moments are all done in charming look-to-camera narrations from Enola herself. Enola is a delight, and she lets the audience know that she knows just how much of a wonder she is. 

This isn’t to say that Enola doesn’t have her own insecurities or her own fears. She struggles with the fact that her mother may have indeed left her of her own will, and she struggles with a loneliness that, in her eyes, has been bestowed upon her since birth. At the beginning of the film Enola herself points out that her name backwards spells “alone.” Even more, Enola struggles to break free of the shadow of her family and create a path for herself. Yes, Enola is a genius, smart enough to trick the great Sherlock and Mycroft Holmes and pull off rescue missions and disguise herself at will, but all the while, Enola lingers in the discomfort of knowing that her family is made up of genius brains—and she needs to find a path for herself. 

Her path involves saving the Viscount Tewksbury (Louis Partridge), a child not unlike Enola herself. He, too, is on the run from a path that he does not want to take. Rather than join the army as his family wants him to, Tewksbury prefers spending quiet time in the forests, sometimes dreaming of a better future as his father before him had done. This, of course, gets him into trouble, which Enola grudgingly helps him get out of. In these moments of conflict, Enola shines the most as someone who isn’t afraid to back down from a fight. The audience will find themselves cheering Enola on, all the while feeling weirdly assured that nothing bad will actually happen to her because they trust Enola’s abilities so much. In that way, the more high-stakes scenes (i.e. daring escapes, fight scenes, explosions, oh my) are even more enjoyable to watch, because at the end of the day, everyone knows that Enola can and will get out of the mess thrown at her. As for Tewksbury and Enola, the the two form a quick alliance that morphs into a friendship and perhaps something more—although as typical sixteen-year-olds are wont to do, the two dance around the subject with an ageless kind of awkwardness that comes off as charming and innocent rather than tiring and cringeworthy. In this little deviance from finding her mother, Enola exhibits more of her skills as a competent young woman; but besides that, here is where Enola finds that she can make her own path in helping people.

That being said, the ending of the movie delivers on that message: in the quest for her mother, Enola ultimately finds herself instead. She rides through the London streets, and with a daring look to the camera, she declares, “My life is my own—and the future is up to us!” Such is an optimistic ending, and in a time where our own personal futures appear a little bleak, “Enola Holmes” presents a temporary hope in which our futures and our lives can really be shaped by ourselves. 

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