CHENNAI: US author Nancy Springer created Sherlock Holmes’ little sister, Enola Holmes, more than 100 years after Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote “A Study in Scarlet” that gave birth to one of the world’s most enduring detectives. For his millions of fans, Sherlock has been the last word in criminal investigation, and anyone even remotely resembling the violin-playing sleuth is merely a caricature. Enola Holmes tries to break out of this image in Springer’s first of the six adventures, “The Case of the Missing Marquess,” now a Netflix film.
“Enola Holmes,” directed by Harry Bradbeer (“Fleabag,” “Killing Eve”) with a script by Jack Thorne (“Harry Potter and the Cursed Child”), though ambitious, is impeded by a convoluted plot with a climax that is a tad too tame. There are other irritants too — Enola, played by Millie Bobby Brown, seems more keen on her physical abilities than in her powers of deduction, and for Sherlock lovers this will come as a huge disappointment. Enola is probably closer to Robert Downey Jr’s Sherlock Holmes, rather than Benedict Cumberbatch’s rendition of the detective.
It is possible that Springer was targeting young adults and Enola’s investigation into the disappearance of the marquess fits this bill all right. On her 16th birthday, her whole world crashes when she realizes that her mother, Lady Eudoria (Helena Bonham Carter), has vanished leaving behind clues to where she stashed a wad of money for her daughter. With her father dead and her older brothers, Sherlock (Henry Cavill) and Mycroft (Sam Claflin), away in London to find their fortunes, Enola grows up in 18442 England with just her mother for company. Lady Eudoria schools her in literature, science and the martial arts. At 16, Enola master of jujutsu and considers herself to be intelligent enough to beat even Sherlock at his own game. She thwarts Mycroft’s efforts to put her in a finishing school and escapes to London hoping to find her mother.
On the train, she meets the young Viscount Tewksbury, marquess of Basilwether (Louis Partridge), who is also running away from being murdered. They pair off, but the parallel threads of the story – the case of the missing mother and Tewksbury’s impending danger – are not woven seamlessly together. In the end, “Enola Holmes” comes off as a rather mixed-up effort.
The writing packs in too many issues. For example, Enola and her mother are driving feminism in England and there are several other add-ons to the core plot like this — they do little to drive the story forward and seem to have been thrown in for good measure.
The settings are indeed gorgeous and there is a feel of Jane Austin’s novels in “Enola Holmes.” Brown is lovely, her curiosity and bubbling energy giving a glow to her persona. But the writing lets her down, as it does the film.