‘Enola Holmes’: Fun sleuthing gamble let down by its script

‘Enola Holmes’ is now streaming on Netflix. Supplied
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Updated 27 September 2020

‘Enola Holmes’: Fun sleuthing gamble let down by its script

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. 

“Enola Holmes” is directed by Harry Bradbeer (“Fleabag,” “Killing Eve”) with a script by Jack Thorne. Supplied

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. 

The film is based on the first book in the series of the same name by Nancy Springer. Supplied

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.

Italian diva Sophia Loren still firing on all cylinders in ‘The Life Ahead’

Updated 25 November 2020

Italian diva Sophia Loren still firing on all cylinders in ‘The Life Ahead’

CHENNAI: Sophia Loren has been part of a league of actresses who brought a new meaning to cinematic performance and the Italian diva who has not been seen in a feature film in more than a decade, makes a rare appearance in the latest Netflix streamer, “The Life Ahead,” interestingly directed by her son, Edoardo Ponti.

With masterpieces such as Vittorio de Sica’s “Two Women” under her belt, 86-year-old Loren gives a breathtakingly moving performance as Madam Rosa in “The Life Ahead.”

As a former sex worker, she takes a street urchin from Senegal under her care, showering him with love which becomes a life changer for the boy who has been committing petty crimes.

Adapted from Romain Gary’s novel, “The Life Before Us,” the movie is high on emotions, a tearjerker in fact, and is set in the southern Italian port city of Bari.

It also stars Ibrahima Gueye as orphan Momo who is under the guardianship of the sweet Dr. Coen (Renato Carpentieri).

“The Life Ahead” begins dramatically with Momo snatching Rosa’s handbags as she is out on the street shopping. When Coen finds this out, he forces the boy to meet Rosa and offer an apology. The boy does so very, very reluctantly, and realizing that the elderly woman would be an excellent ward for Momo the doctor cajoles Rosa to take him in.

There are moments of beauty as there are of tension and conflict. Momo is at first hostile to Rosa, clearly unhappy at the loss of his freedom which he enjoyed under Coen.

He still manages to sneak out and sell drugs on the streets, but as time goes by, begins to get fond of Rosa, and she too, despite her initial reluctance, veers around.

Scenes such as when Rosa suffers from temporary memory losses or when the boy smuggles her out of her hospital bed are lovely. And Loren’s nuanced performance is Oscar worthy — she is as regal as she is vulnerable.

Ponti does not let his work turn despairing or dark, although the subject of abandoned children is heavy. He offers variety as well, of a parent fighting to keep their child and a shopkeeper who never ceases missing his wife.

All the time, Momo watches them and discovers a sense of belonging while the audience watch him blossom.