Finding yourself is tough. It’s hard enough when you are a teen. Harder even still when you’re the youngest sibling of perhaps the greatest detective alive. Then there is the seemingly impenetrable glass ceiling that comes with living in Victorian times keeping you down!?
Enter Enola Holmes. Inspired by a series of novels by Nancy Springer, it imagines the existence of a younger sister (Millie Bobby Brown) for Sherlock Holmes (Henry Cavill) and his older government operative brother, Mycroft (Sam Claflin, complete with a mustache to twirl, quite literally).
In this treatment, the two had long since moved out of the house, leaving Enola to be raised quite unconventionally by her mother, Eudoria (Helena Bonham Carter). How unorthodox are we talking? In addition to painting and reading, there is tennis (indoors) and archery (also indoors!) and Jujitsu. These things are most UNLADYLIKE.
Things get upended shortly after she turns 16 and her mother disappears.
It’s a mystery. A game is afoot!
Enola, with a natural nose for investigations, makes it her mission to find out what happened and why. She soon stumbles upon another mystery, the attempted murder of Viscount Tewksbury (Louis Partridge), whom is initially an annoyance (boys, UGH!), but is found to be a kindred spirit, another soul trying to buck societal and familial expectations and find his own place in the world.
Meanwhile, Sherlock and Mycroft are in a hurry to solve the mystery of ENOLA’S disappearance. Mycroft, in particular, has plans to tame her and enroll her in a finishing school where she will learn to be a proper lady.
Throughout, viewers will find Enola breaking the fourth wall. At one point, it felt like an episode of Dora the Explorer, with her posing us a question, as if expecting an answer. In lesser hands, it might not work, but Brown has a charm in the role that cannot be denied.
Brown once again proves why she is one of the best young actresses working today and her ability to move us gets a solid rating of ELEVEN (did you hear that? It was the sound of many groans from the Stranger Things fans who understood the reference). She has “IT.”
Enola Holmes is a fine family film. However, it does take a surprisingly violent turn towards the end that feels off kilter with the overall tone of the movie. The central mystery and the way it is resolved is also rather weak, which may leave hard core fans of the mystery genre somewhat disappointed, but again it’s easy to forgive because of the charm factor.
Funny how so much of this movie has Enola racing around London trying to find things – first her mother, then Tewksbury, the person behind the plot his murder, etc. But ultimately it becomes about finding herself.
Between what her mom was trying to raise her to be and societal expectations, Enola is understandably being pulled in a number of directions!
[as she finds the envelope of money and a drawing with a message] Enola Holmes: “Our future is up to us.” What future? [Enola remembers her mother’s words] Eudoria Holmes: There are two paths you can take, Enola. Yours, or the path others choose for you. Enola Holmes: “Our future is up to us.”
Sherlock, perhaps intuitively, understands this. He affirms his sister.
Sherlock Holmes: She always found you quite extraordinary. As do I, Enola Holmes. The choice is always yours. Whatever society may claim, it can’t control you. As mother has proven.
Even Tewksbury, born in a life of great privilege, is not immune to the pressures. Perhaps more so. This passage of dialogue may be considered a minor spoiler.
[as he’s telling Enola why he ran away] Tewksbury: You’ll laugh at me. Enola Holmes: I won’t. Tewksbury: My life seemed to flash before me. I was just about to take my seat in the House of Lords. I had these ideas about how we might progress the estate. But my family were set on me joining the army, and then going overseas, just like my uncle. And I realized I was scared. Scared I would hate every second of the rest of my life. Enola Holmes: Why would I laugh at that? Tewksbury: Don’t I sound pathetic? Enola Holmes: No.
Have you felt this tension? In our own journey to self discovery, it is sometimes difficult to discern our path amongst heavy expectations from society, our parents, or even ourselves. Few of us find ourselves as self assured as Enola. Whether it’s Victorian times or the 21st Century, the struggle is real.
Fortunately there are steps we can take to change that.
Rounding Up the Suspects
Who or what is conspiring to keep us from finding ourselves and tapping into our potential? Let’s line up the usual suspects, shall we?
The status quo. Hey, it can be a comfortable place to be, but it can also keep us from growing and spreading our wings. For Enola, it took her life being upended by the mystery of her mom’s disappearance to push her into the family business of super-sleuthing.
Studies have shown the brain is wired to be risk adverse. Pushing against it. It means taking risks, sometimes going against what others do and want for us. Being uncomfortable is one way to learn who we are and who we are not.
External obstacles in our path. Are we going to lay down, or will we exercise a different perspective? Hopefully the latter. Obstacles can be our friends. They can help us grow. They can teach us lessons. The stronger the obstacle in front of you, the stronger you become.
Of course the main culprit that may be holding you back could always be…. YOURSELF. Have you heard of something called imposter syndrome? It is a feeling that you don’t belong, that friends and colleagues discover you as a “fraud,” that you’ve only gotten to where you are because of luck, rather than through your natural gifts and talents and hard work. An estimated 70 percent of people have experienced these feelings. Especially writers!
A first step to overcoming imposter syndrome is to acknowledge it and reframe your thoughts. Ask yourself: Does this thought help or hinder me? By taking about it with a close friend or mentor, you will find that you are not alone and it is quite common to be plagued by self doubt. Therapy can help you further identify where your anxieties come from and how to overcome them.
- Push against the status quo and take risks.
- View obstacles as your friends.
- Ask yourself: Are my thoughts helping me or hindering me?
Good luck with your own investigations.
Elementary, my dear reader, Elementary!
Where to Watch (And Read!)
Enola Holmes is available to watch worldwide on Netflix. Those wanting to follow her adventures through the theater of the mind can also check out the young adult book series by Nancy Springer.
Enola Holmes (2020)
Director: Harry Bradbeer
Screenwriter: Jack Thorne, based on novel by Nancy Springer
Cast: Millie Bobby Brown, Sam Claflin, Henry Cavill, Helena Bonham Carter
Rated: PG-13 (some violence)
Scott is a mental health professional, freelance writer, and movie lover. He has a Masters of Divinity degree, which is not nearly as amazing sounding as Masters of the Universe, but it is what it is. It is here at Movies That Move Us where his powers combine! It is not uncommon to find him pretending to open automatic doors using The Force.