Adapted from the first installment in a six-book series by Nancy Springer, “Enola Holmes” modernizes the Victorian world of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, calling on “Fleabag” director Harry Bradbeer to bring an equally light and direct approach to the equipment. A socially awkward character who isn’t the least bit uncomfortable in front of the camera, Enola serves as her own narrator, frequently breaking the fourth wall as she speaks to the audience or turns conscious glances in our direction – a style clearly inspired by the confidential “just between us” Ton Bradbeer and star Phoebe Waller-Bridge hit on “Fleabag”.
“Enola Holmes” offers a different kind of feminism from this game-changing show, based less on accepting women with all their flaws and more on the belief that men have been leading for long enough and that it is time to make a difference. room for others. Centered on a runaway lord with long hair (Louis Partridge) and the passing of the British Representation of the People Act 1884 (which paved the way for women’s suffrage a quarter of a century later), the film has to mind contemporary issues of gender equality. – and a radical and endearing protagonist of Enola.
While it was his mother’s unexplained exit that sparked his fling, it’s the equally peculiar appearance of Partridge’s character – a cute young lord titled Viscount Tewkesbury, Marquess of Basilwether – that consumes his attention for much. of the movie. After saving this “useless boy” from an assassin (Burn Gorman), Enola follows her own path, only to admit that they are both on the run from their respective families. He wants her dead and his – older brother Mycroft (Sam Claflin) in particular – has a goal of sending him to a finishing school for young girls.
While the project may be British, it might not be a coincidence that a story based on that landmark Reform Bill vote should land in the weeks following the most important US election in decades. And what could be more stimulating than the twin messages of the film? The first, “You are not alone”, should resonate with the young women in the audience. Enola (whose name, we are reminded too often, is “alone” spelled backwards) becomes a symbol of solidarity for those who feel like strangers in their nonconformity. And the second, for those old enough to have an impact on the elections: “Every vote counts”, a concept at the heart of her mother’s disappearance.
“You don’t know what it’s like to be out of power,” growls Sherlock, one of Eudoria’s friends, doing this distinctly 2020 thing of calling a prominent man on his privilege. “You have no interest in changing a world that suits you so well. That may be true, but it’s a little shocking to see the great Sherlock Holmes – a forward-thinking man of science and reason who pioneered the field of forensic investigation – portrayed as nothing more than a pretty interested boy, sympathetic to his 20 year old younger sister but desperately behind the progressive attitudes that Enola embodies.
It’s one thing to be dismissive of Mycroft, but the cast of Cavill transforms the iconic character of Sherlock into what we might call a metrosexual today: worked out and so meticulously groomed that he could easily be mistaken for gay – far from the tweed- dressed, dandy wearing buckskin of yesteryear. On the flip side, Brown (who could pass for the sister of “Sherlock” star Benedict Cumberbatch) brings some of the awkwardness we traditionally associate the autistic sleuth with her role: Enola was never brainwashed by her mother in the manner of a polite society, and as such she is meant to represent the female intellect in its natural and unchecked state. His performance may be incongruous with the times, but that’s not a bad thing. Brown’s acting style is reminiscent of the effusive spontaneity Keira Knightley brought to “Sense and Sensibility,” shattering the narrow appropriateness of so many Jane Austen adaptations before her.
Here is a Victorian movie in which we never hear the sound of a clinking cup of tea. On the contrary, we are treated to an array of doorsteps, cars and butts – not to mention a warehouse full of explosives spreading the most spectacular fireworks display London has seen so far. Despite making room for such a bombshell, “Enola Holmes” remains more docile and tasteful in its forceful storytelling than Guy Ritchie’s recent “Sherlock Holmes” films, and considerably more fun than the “Nancy” reboot. Drew ”from last year.
What is missing is the simple satisfaction of solving a case. In addition to using her noggin to unravel an early clue involving her mother’s chrysanthemums, Enola does most of her detective work on the fly, relying either on her memory or her emotions to direct her. Director Bradbeer and publisher Adam Bosman maintain a laid-back pace throughout, propelled by dynamic camera DP Giles Nuttgens, whose CG-adorned big-screen compositions subvert Merchant Ivory’s sweltering locations with ‘Kingsman’ pop energy. “Enola Holmes” seems just as suited to sequels as this franchise, and could benefit from follow-ups, as it ends with Tewkesbury’s case resolved, and much of Ms. Holmes’ motives still need further investigation.