Author’s Note: Long time readers of this blog will instantly notice that this post is very different than my typical. I am aware of this, and perhaps this will be a single anomaly. However, I have wanted to write a movie review for quite some time, and this is frankly the best place to share it. I think you will still find the philosophical and spiritual themes I typically write about present, though in a different format.
To start off, Enola Holmes is, purely and simply, fun.
Yes, the feminism is stereotypical. And yes, the romance is predictable. But watching a spunky sixteen year old defy the odds and save the day, even beating her famous brother Sherlock Holmes – well, who wouldn’t enjoy that? Speaking of Sherlock Holmes, Henry Cavill’s portrayal of him was was superb. Sherlock Holmes adaptations and offshoots all have to find a balance between depicting the famous detective’s brain and his hidden but still present humanity. This movie shows a bit more humanity, but that’s understandable, since it deals with his family. And the relationship that grows between Enola and Sherlock is completely fan girl worthy. I would have loved to see more of it – perhaps a sequel?
However, there are two points which the movie raised which raised it a bit beyond fun, and yet I wish had been developed more. The first is the issue of political activism. I said the feminism is stereotypical. This is not completely accurate. The presence of feminism in a modern movie about a girl in the 1800s is almost universal. But the form this feminism takes is concerning, and the characters find it concerning. I risk giving away the plot if I go into much more detail, but there seems to an understanding between two of the characters that, however wrong the world is, there are limits to the lengths you can go to mend it. There was even the beginning of the idea that those we love may make decisions we cannot support. And then the issue was dropped and never brought up again. I find this disappointing, and also not terribly good story telling. Issues as big as these would have to be addressed.
The second point regards the relationship between authenticity and community. Enola’s mother, Eudoria, tells her “There are two paths you can take, Enola. Yours…or the path others choose for you.” To describe Enola and Eudoria as free spirited really doesn’t do it justice. They are eccentric – at least, Eudoria is, and Enola, raised exclusively by her, follows in her footsteps. This is, predictably, not accepted by many other characters, and attempts are made to change Enola. She is told that this is for her own good. “I want you to be happy,” Mycroft tells her. “I want you to live a full and vibrant life,” Miss Harrison, the head of a finishing school, argues. On the surface, Enola seems to be forced to choose between being herself and being accepted by society. On the surface, one choice definitely wins. But it’s actually more complex than that.
At one point, Enola recounts how she once rescued a sheep from the edge of a cliff, almost dying in the attempt. She then realizes that, although it will put her own safety at risk, she must try to help a character who she sees as “on the edge of a cliff.” And help she does, sacrificing – well, we won’t say what, but it is a great deal. We also watch Sherlock move from a “It’s out of my hands” approach to a more active involvement in his sister’s life. Contrast this with Eudoria. It is no secret that she disappears, leaving Enola behind. And when you eventually learn the reason for her disappearance, it is unsatisfactory, at best. And this irritates me, as it seems both out of character, and a departure of what I see as a deeper theme of the movie. Enola and Sherlock, however, seem to realize that however different you are, and however poorly you fit in, you owe something, if not to society, then to your fellow man.