Netflix's "Enola Holmes," adapted from the Nancy Springer series by the same name, hit screens at an apt time.
In the midst of 2020's tumultuous presidential election and one of America's largest civil rights movements, "Enola Holmes" illuminates political and personal triumph. Set in late-19th century England at the start of the women's suffrage movement, it's a coming-of-age story about societal evolution and the power of youth, told through the experiences of a marginalized, yet fearless teenage girl.
Enola ("alone" spelled backward, as the main character reminds us early and often) is the 16-year-old sister of famed detective Sherlock Holmes (Henry Cavill, "Man of Steel," "The Witcher") and Mycroft Holmes (Sam Claflin, "Hunger Games," "Pirates of the Caribbean"), a rich politician steadfast on keeping the British boys' club as is. When their mother and suffragette Eudoria Holmes, played by the ever-bewitching Helena Bonham Carter, goes missing, Enola hatches a plan to find her. Sherlock, of course, pursues the case as well while cavalierly supporting his sister's persistence.
Millie Bobbie Brown (who earned her stardom with the Netflix original series, "Stranger Things") again proves her aptitude for acting as this earnest heroine. Constantly breaking the fourth wall to discuss her life and dilemmas with the viewer (at one point, even asking what the protagonist should do next), Enola whists us away on her adventure as she blossoms into a young woman detective.
The film is speckled with imagery as vibrant as Enola herself. Like a game of chess, we weave between verdant hills of English countryside and dusky London cobblestone — holding our breath as Enola unravels the case. Well, two cases.
At first consumed by feelings of loneliness after realizing her mother left willingly, Enola quickly charges forth to help a young, endangered runaway named Viscount Tewskbury, Marquess of Basilwether (after all, the original book is titled "Enola Holmes: The Case of the Missing Marquess.") Tewkesbury is infatuated with Enola's fiery feminist perspective as he, too, is one of England's "new thinkers" feared by traditional politicians.
"Paint your own picture, Enola," Eudoria tells the protagonist as a child ... and Enola certainly does, despite what her brothers or anyone else thinks.
In a time when so many families are evaluating how to teach their children about challenging topics like racism, inequality and politics, maybe we can all learn something from Eudoria Holmes' unconventional parenting approach. Eudoria values independence and honesty over the niceties required of 19th century women. Her tactics are perceived as wild and unruly by many, but teach Enola to think for herself and never be complicit with what is wrong.
"Enola Holmes" is a feminist zine meets detective drama. It's playful, but not without depth. While she's oppressed by society and her older brother, Mycroft, Enola finds a way to bring truth and justice to the world around her. Enola radiates both innocence and wisdom, delicacy and strength. The film is a delight and — more importantly — a reminder to us all that change is always worth fighting for.