Movie review: enola HOlmes

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Christian Felan ’23

A film of adventure and mystery, Enola Holmes tells the story of a young woman fighting the traditional and regressive expectations of society in search of her lost mother, the only person to teach her to think and act for herself. The film takes place in late 19th century England and revolves its plot around growing calls for social reform and universal suffrage in the heart of London, drawing a parallel between the journeys of Enola and her country. From the inclusion of social movements of the day, to the symbolic production design, as well as the occasional break of the 4th wall, Enola Holmes gives the audience the ability to draw connections between the life of a young woman finding her purpose and the work of social movements looking to be heard.

The film begins with a scrappy-dressed Enola (Millie Bobby Brown) riding her worn-out bike in the open fields, along with a brief description of the Holmes family. From the start, Enola is presented as a rebellious and adventurous young woman, injected with this remarkable social and logical intelligence that is said to have come from her mother, Eudoria (Helena Bonham Carter). Due to her father’s passing and the great success and fame of older brothers Mycroft (Sam Claflin) and Sherlock (Henry Cavill), Eudoria raised Enola all by herself, and did it in her own way. Enola remembers solving puzzles and reading books with her mother all the time, and credits her with her outstanding academic and intellectual capabilities. However, her mother’s sudden disappearance would reunite Enola with her brothers and influence her to go after her mother herself when they believe her to be too mischievous and childish. On the road, Enola runs into Viscount Tewkesbury (Louis Partridge), a teenage boy who is in line to take his father’s place in the House of Lords and vote for the Reform Bill, which we later find out goes against the wishes of his traditionalist family. Once in London, she leaves him to look for her mother, solving deciphers and uncovering clues that reveal that her mother is active in the Women’s UK Suffrage Movement. But, after learning of dangerous plans to keep Tewkesbury from voting, she goes after him for his own safety, protecting him from hitmen and even a member of his own family. Before Sherlock can even begin to comprehend all the trouble Enola had been in, she saves Tewkesbury and gets him to the House of Lords, all to her celebrity older brother’s astonishment.

In this film, we can see the connections made between the struggles of Enola, fighting back against traditionalists and the efforts of the suffrage movement to be heard in a society that dismisses women as inexperienced and uneducated. Enola is a protagonist who brings a message of possibility and self-determination as she battles the regressive culture and the condemnation of those who disapprove of her free-spirited mother’s raising such an “unladylike young lady” with advanced logical and intellectual skills. 

But it is not only the script that sent messages of progression and liberation. A well-constructed design in clothes and scenery also gives the reader a different angle to look at how the colliding ideologies of tradition and progression affect society. The design production is easily summed up in Enola’s different attires throughout the film. There is a clear distinction among the rugged skirts worn on the farms and markets to the Victorian dress worn when mingling with the elites in the heart of London to the constricting and unifying blouses at the boarding school. They all express different aspects of society that Enola must learn to thrive in if she ever wanted to reunite with her mother.
It is quite noticeable that Enola Holmes strives for a message of social justice and the struggles against the outdated perceptions of society. Despite a tidal wave of progressive cinema, this film reimagines the struggles and ideas of a movement. By connecting the legal sector and the social sector, Enola Holmes allows us to understand how important it is to stand for what you believe in and fight for progress in society.