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Enola Holmes: Our Latest Mystery Woman

SPOILERS AHEAD!

Enola Holmes has the cleverness of Velma Dinkley, the wit of Nancy Drew, the fighting skill of Charlie’s Angels, and the empathy of Olivia Benson, all wrapped into one. For young women, female detective characters represent empowered role models. Unlike the princesses of fairy tales, they are openly intelligent, rescue others rather than being rescued themselves, and most certainly don’t require a prince to take care of them. There’s no doubt that Enola Holmes will soon be that heroine for girls everywhere. 

Netflix’s new movie, based off the young adult book series The Enola Holmes Mysteries by Nancy Springer, takes everything we love about our favorite female inquisitors and complements it with Millie Bobby Brown’s charming acting. The film follows the famous Sherlock Holmes’ teenage sister in turn-of-the-century England. She starts the film searching for her mother, who is her closest companion and who has disappeared. Along the way, though it sounds cliche, she solves another mystery and discovers who she is and what she values. 

The movie is set in England during the early 1900s and reimagines the world of young Sherlock Holmes. We get an inside look at the social hierarchies of British society, the differences between city and country life, and even a progressive view on the King’s politics. It would be impossible to review this movie without giving credit to Henry Cavill, who plays Sherlock Holmes, for his nuanced portrayal of the character. Though Sherlock Holmes is a character that has been adapted many times, both Cavill and Springer did a fantastic job of highlighting Holmes’ eccentricity and intelligence without allowing his character to overpower Enola. 

In fact, rather than Sherlock’s character taking away from Enola, his role adds depth to hers, providing a role model who she looked up to, a peer in her wit, and a familial figure who truly understands her. This is most evident during one of the movie’s final moments, when Enola places a pinecone on a statue and Sherlock picks it up, indicating their shared understanding of the need to pursue one’s own path. 

While Enola Holmes tells a familiar story, its political themes provide a refreshing take on the female detective narrative. I am someone who begs film and TV to stay away from politics; in a world so saturated with political rhetoric, it’s often a very necessary reprieve from real life. However, the social commentary in the movie was everything you could ask for: skillful, nonpartisan, subtle and historical. 

The movie follows the women’s suffrage movement in England, of which Enola’s mother is a fundamental and radical supporter. Throughout the film, Enola learns more about her mother’s involvement in the movement and, despite feeling empowered by her activism, she is concerned about the lengths her mother is willing to go to for her agenda – we see the bombs the suffragette movement was planning to use to “make some noise.” Despite this, Enola frequently embodies a strong, independent woman of the time, refusing forced finishing school and feeling thankful to her mother for raising her to be a fighter and free thinker. 

One of the film’s most powerful lines comes from Edith, a close friend of Enola’s mother and fellow activist – “Politics doesn’t interest you because you have no interest in changing a world that suits you,” she says as she condemns Sherlock’s lack of involvement in governmental affairs.

Without a doubt, the movie stresses the lengths that people are willing to go to in order to push their own agendas, from the suffragettes’ hidden bombs to a character who tries to have her grandson, Viscount Tewksbury (Enola’s love interest, played by Louis Partridge), killed so he won’t vote in favor of a reform bill. 

Yet, while watching the film, the viewer gets the sense that Enola shares this same vigor for her beliefs, but isn’t willing to sacrifice her compassion. She feels regret that her mother picked her cause over her; though she respects her choice, she also values connections with others. We learn that she chooses to befriend and care for the future Lord Tewksbury, encouraging him to stand up for his political ideals, despite knowing her mother would have disapproved of her “risking her life to care for the weak.” This becomes most clear at the end of the movie, when Enola’s mother comes to the realization that Enola truly has the capability to change the world.

Enola Holmes is without question strong and self-sufficient, while also having confidence in her emotions and prioritizing others over herself, a balance that writers and directors often lose in their “strong, feminist” heroines. The film capitalizes on subtlety and nuance while still remaining lighthearted and enjoyable for the average viewer. As a connoisseur of Netflix movies, I’m happy to say this piece doesn’t conform to the campy or low-budget Netflix movie stereotype. The ending leaves much room for a follow-up sequel, possibly one based on the second book in the series. Go watch and enjoy!

Lexi Boccuzzi is a Penn sophomore in the College majoring in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics from Stamford, CT. She is an avid country-music listener, reader, and fan of all things Star Wars, Harry Potter, and Gilmore Girls. She loves to chat about politics and is also studying classics and legal studies.
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