In addition to revisiting the hidden perils of small-town America in the 1980s, and introducing viewers to the deadly Demogorgon and the Upside Down dimension, the breakout Netflix fantasy series Stranger Things launched the career of Millie Bobby Brown — a young British actress with a name that curiously sounds straight out of the American South. Three seasons of Stranger Things have featured Brown’s compelling portrayal of the naive, psychically powered heroine Eleven, solidifying her status as a talent on the rise. Now, at 16, Brown is playing the title character in the feature film Enola Holmes, currently available on Netflix, and it’s a star-making turn.
Enola Holmes is an exuberant, smart, family-friendly action movie about master detective Sherlock Holmes’s little sister, Enola, who is determined to follow in her brother’s footsteps. One of its greatest assets is a cast led by Brown as Enola and featuring experienced support from Henry Cavill (Superman in the DC Extended Universe films) as the canny Sherlock, Sam Claflin (Peaky Blinders, The Hunger Games) as stuffy older brother Mycroft Holmes, and the prodigious Helena Bonham Carter (The Crown, The King’s Speech) as free-spirited Eudoria, matriarch of the family.
Despite the charismatic performers around her, Brown carries the movie. It’s one of the better recent adaptations of a young-adult literary property — in this case, the first of six novels in author Nancy Springer’s well-received series, The Enola Holmes Mysteries, about an original character evidently inspired by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s immortal creation, Sherlock Holmes. So this could be the start of a franchise based on the Springer books. If the quality and charm of Enola Holmes is an indication, a sequel should be green-lighted immediately.
The movie is directed by Harry Bradbeer (veteran of prestige TV shows Fleabag, Killing Eve, and The Hour) from a screenplay by the prolific Jack Thorne. It takes mainstays of Doyle’s classic adventures — particularly the Holmes brothers and Scotland Yard’s Inspector Lestrade — and repurposes them in the service of the fledgling girl detective’s story. We meet Enola in the happy company of her widowed mother, Eudoria, who is raising the girl to be a young woman capable of facing any challenge. Sherlock and Mycroft have left the family’s country home for their careers in Victorian-era London — Sherlock developing a reputation as a remarkable private investigator and Mycroft fitting snugly into a staid government job. When Eudoria suddenly disappears without warning, the brothers are called back home to decide Enola’s fate.
A STAR-MAKING SOLUTION
Mycroft, Enola’s designated guardian, decides to send her to a boarding school where she’ll be under the thumb of a strict headmistress (the always excellent Fiona Shaw in overbearing villainess mode). The preternaturally accomplished Enola balks at this unpleasant fate and decides instead to head out on her own and find her mother. Along the way, Enola encounters another mystery in the form of a smug, aristocratic teenage boy (the eventually likable Lewis Partridge) being pursued by an assassin (Burn Gorman, exceedingly sinister). And so, as Sherlock would say, the game is afoot.
The whodunits of Enola Holmes are engaging, the movie’s production values are big-screen worthy, and it’s too much fun to let its worthwhile message of female empowerment and self-sufficiency feel pedantic. Of course, none of that would matter if the focal point of the endeavor weren’t appealing while also conveying intelligence, pluck, and emotional depth. No worries. Brown brings all that to Enola as the girl tries to keep one step ahead of her brothers, figure out why she has dangerous adversaries on her tail, and simultaneously solve the case of her missing mother. Few actors in their early or mid-teens are skilled enough to handle a role so central to a feature film and go toe-to-toe with the likes of Cavill, Claflin, and Bonham-Carter. But Millie Bobby Brown has the goods, including loads of heart, to do the job. You don’t need to be a Holmes to deduce that her future is bright.
Enola Holmes is available for streaming on Netflix.
POLITICAL HORROR SHOW
Because it is October with Halloween on the horizon, I tried to think of some scary movies to recommend. The most horrific I could find was a documentary about the nightmare circumstances of our current federal administration and the supposed leader of the free world. #Unfit: The Psychology of Donald Trump addresses the dysfunctional behavior of a man whose lifetime of malfeasance has come to impact and undermine our nation and the world. A shockingly large percentage of Americans are bound and determined not to believe their eyes and their ears when it comes to his corruption, amorality, and other character flaws that have been on display and confirmed over and over for decades. Director Dan Partland lays it all out with recent and archival footage, in-depth evaluation from respected medical experts, and appraisals by politicians from both sides of the aisle, as well as a hard look at Trump’s constituents and the sociology behind why they voted for him and continue to support him. It’s downright frightening.
#Unfit: The Psychology of Donald Trump is available for streaming on Amazon Prime Video, Apple TV, GooglePlay, Fandango NOW, VUDU, YouTube, DirecTV, and more.
Michael Snyder is a print and broadcast journalist who covers pop culture on Michael Snyder’s Culture Blast, via GABnet.net, Roku, Spotify, and YouTube, and The Mark Thompson Show on KGO radio. You can follow Michael on Twitter: @cultureblaster