5 Reasons Why Netflix’s “Enola Holmes” Is So Popular
A great watch for kids with enough appeal for adults.
“Enola Holmes”, starring Millie Bobby Brown, Henry Cavill and Sam Claflin as Enola, Sherlock and Mycroft Holmes, and Helena Bonham Carter as their mother Eudoria, has been a big success since it premiered on Netflix a few weeks ago. What is it exactly that viewers find so appealing? Here are five very good reasons for the film’s popularity - in no particular order.
1. Henry Cavill
You know it. Plenty of people would watch it just for him, even if his character in this is utterly unnecessary. In all honesty, the story does not require Sherlock Holmes - at all! It could have easily been just a tale about a clever girl detective, unrelated to anyone famous. I’m pretty sure the only reason Nancy Springer (author of the Enola Holmes novels) included him in the narrative was because his name would help sell more books. But, then again, without the inclusion of Mr. Holmes we wouldn’t have Henry Cavill walking around and looking pretty, albeit without having any significant bearing on the plot. I suppose it’s kind of nice to see this sort of thing happen to a male character for a change. He’s easy on the eyes and plays a very enjoyable, if irrelevant, Sherlock, so everybody wins.
2. Millie Bobby Brown
I have an admission to make - I wasn’t a Millie Bobby Brown fan before this movie. I had nothing against her but I didn’t think she was that great in “Stranger Things”. I felt she lacked a certain charm and originality. Imagine my surprise when this movie made me do a complete one-eighty. Perhaps El just wasn’t the right role for her, despite how famous it has made her, because she is actually oozing charm in this one. (And, yes, I am taking into account the fact that El as a character is not meant to be that sociable and smiley, that’s not what I’m judging on, we’re talking about acting charm.) Her popularity alone would have brought in the viewers but it’s wonderful to know that her performance is well worth the price of admission. She does really carry the entire movie. It relies heavily on her constantly breaking the fourth wall to talk to the audience - something that is very risky and can often turn out rather awkward, even when done by great actors. Millie, however, executes it smoothly and without a trace of stiffness. Well done, indeed!
(As a side-note, Helena Bonham Carter as Enola’s mother is also surprisingly suitable casting and, considering some of her other work, I was glad to see that this was one of her more reigned-in, less over-the-top performances.)
Period pieces set in the Victorian era nearly always have this one thing going for them - they usually look beautiful. This one is no exception. Everything, from the environments to the way the characters are dressed, transports us to a different world. Of course, this is not the real Victorian era - more like a filtered, sanitised and somewhat modernised version of it - but the goal here is not historical accuracy. We just want to have a fun little trip away to a universe where we know that everything will turn out all right in the end. We want the charm and adventure but without the smell, filth, disease and frequent triumph of oppression which were very much present during that historical period. That’s exactly what “Enola Holmes” gives us - escapism.
4. It’s both girly and feminist
Enola is a strong, independent female character (thankfully, also a likable one, which isn’t always the case, even in young adult literature) but this does not stop her from looking gorgeous, wearing pretty dresses and flirting with handsome rich boys. We get to enjoy all of these things without feeling guilty because Enola is most definitely a feminist and the ways in which she succeeds have nothing to do with her gender. Her relationship with her potential love interest (the young Lord Tewkesbury, portrayed by Louis Partridge) is handled very well, too. Needless to say, she is not a damsel in distress but while she does save him and feel responsible for him, this does not seem contrived or like it’s only there to make a political statement. There is a good, believable reason why she is more competent and more likely to do the saving most of the time. He does not need to be dumbed down or rendered useless in order for her to shine. There also seems to be a genuine friendship between the two, separate from any romantic feelings.
Overall, this movie manages to be a great watch for little (and big) girls in more than one respect.
5. It actually has a good story and characters
I may have made it sound like famous actors, nice costumes and well-handled gender politics form this movie’s main appeal but that’s not all it has to offer. Apart from its aesthetic qualities, atmosphere and good messages, “Enola Holmes” is also just a well-crafted adventure. The characters are interesting and relatable, the stakes reasonably high and the mystery, while not all that complicated, is just enough to keep our attention. The humour and the snappy dialogue are also on point. At the same time, our heroine goes through some character growth and learns some lessons, which is a prerequisite for a satisfying ending. One of the movie’s biggest achievements is that it leaves us wanting more.
I’ve seen some opinions online that this should have been a series, rather than a movie. Not to worry! There are a few more books to adapt, and with how well this one has been received, I don’t think we’ve seen the last of Enola.