Enola Holmes Explained: What’s Up With the Ending?

Pros: Cute and energetic heroine; Millie Bobby Brown and other good actors; emotional Sherlock Holmes performed by Henry Cavill; costumes and scenery Cons: Quite traditional plot development for a teenage detective story; increased feminist emphasis; some anachronisms of Enola Holmes / “Enola Holmes”

Genre detective
Directed by Harry Bradbeer
Cast: Millie Bobby Brown (Enola Holmes), Henry Cavill (Sherlock Holmes), Sam Claflin (Mycroft Holmes), Helena Bonham Carter (Eudoria Holmes), Fiona Shaw (Miss Harrison), Frances de la Tour (The Widow), Burn Gorman ( Linthorn) and others
Studios Legendary Pictures, Netflix
Year of release 2020
Site IMDb

Enola Holmes is a film adaptation of the first book in a series of novels about the younger sister of the legendary Sherlock Holmes, written by the American writer Nancy Springer, specializing in the so-called young adult literature – literature for teenagers 12-18 years old, usually light fiction and detective stories. Actually, novels about boy and girl detectives were popular in all countries of the world, including the USSR, but this genre became especially widespread in the UK and the USA. Just look at the series about Nancy Drew, published since 1930 and including more than 220 books (!!!), the last of which were published in the summer of 2020, and the next two will go on sale in January and March 2021. Here It’s a franchise, it’s a franchise!

Compared to Nancy Drew (of course, this series was written by different authors over the course of 90 years), the Enola Holmes series includes only six novels, the last of which was published in 2010 and tells about the reconciliation of the older and younger Holmes and the return of the prodigal sister into the bosom of the family. Yes, according to the plot of the series, Enola Holmes, who is 20 years younger than her brothers, does not get along very well with them, and when the girl’s mother suddenly disappears, young Enola refuses to accept the fate prepared for her by her older brothers. According to British laws of the 19th – early 20th centuries, until the age of 21, an unmarried girl remains in the care of the eldest man of the family, in this case Mycroft Holmes, and only he can make all decisions for her. Enola runs away from home and throughout all six books runs from her brothers, including the famous detective, while solving detective puzzles, cracking codes and looking for kidnapped people.


In the adaptation from Legendary Pictures/Netflix, the authors decided to slightly modify this plot. And although in general the plot of the film follows the events of the novel The Case of the Missing Marquess (2006), there are quite a few differences. Yes, for most of the film Enola is hiding from Mycroft, who is trying to send her to a school for girls from noble families, but the girl still finds a common language with the same Sherlock. And although by law the younger brother has no right to interfere in her fate, he helps her.

In this regard, the image of Sherlock Holmes in Enola Holmes is interesting. Unlike the somewhat prim and arrogant sociopath we are used to, Henry “The Witcher” Cavill’s character is more humane and emotional. He cares about his sister, is somewhat sentimental and sometimes even allows himself to joke and smile. You know, I would also watch a separate film about Holmes with Henry Cavill. And you don’t need to tell me that this is “not canon”. On June 23, 2020, The Estate of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the organization responsible for licensing the image of Holmes and protecting the property rights of Arthur Conan Doyle’s descendants, filed a lawsuit against Legendary Pictures, Netflix and Nancy Springer personally, as the rights to a more emotional and human Holmes, described in Doyle’s last ten stories, published in 1923 – 27, has not yet been transferred to the public domain. So emotional Holmes is quite canonical.


But let’s return to Enola Holmes. Actually, I have nothing against literary pastiche; among such works there are works that are not just good, but sometimes even more interesting than the originals, for example… “The Aeneid” by Kotlyarevsky. And perhaps, as teenage detective stories, Nancy Springer’s novels are really not bad, it’s not for nothing that they were twice nominated for an award. Edgar Allan Poe. But… they are too teenage and predictable. The plot develops exactly as you expect it, detective riddles look somewhat far-fetched and sometimes even stupid. Yes, it’s not easy to figure out the criminal here, but most likely because his motive is… strange, and the author made the last person you think of as the attacker. The technique is old, but here, to our surprise, it works.


Enola Holmes is a beautiful film. There are excellent settings of Victorian England, chic costumes, good dialogue, high-quality camera work. Well, yes, there were really good actors in the film. The same Millie Bobby Brown has already proven her worth as an actress, and the role of a young independent woman trying to prove her right to be whoever she wants in a society where women are limited in everything suits her very well. The film is also enriched by the participation of other stars: the already mentioned Henry “Superman” Cavill (Sherlock Holmes) with his open smile, so unusual on Holmes’ face; Sam Claflin (Mycroft Holmes), whom you may have seen in The Hunger Games film series and the Peaky Blinders series; and, of course, Helen Bonham Carter, who played their mother.


Novels about Enola Holmes, written in 2006–2010, are aimed primarily at teenage girls; naturally, they initially contain feminist motives. For the film, they decided to strengthen them by placing the struggle of the suffragettes at the center of the plot. Yes, this is an important historical context for Great Britain at the end of the 19th century, but in some episodes it looks too far-fetched, and the behavior of some of the film’s heroines is a clear anachronism. However, there are enough anachronisms here. Although Enola Holmes does not say what kind of bill is being heard in Parliament, it clearly implies a universal suffrage bill. But limited suffrage appeared in Great Britain in 1918, and full suffrage only in 1928. It is better not to remember at all about open jiu-jitsu courses for women in 1904.


Overall, Enola Holmes is not a bad film. The actors are clearly trying, the cameraman and decorators did a decent job. It’s hard to call screenwriters hacks; it’s just that this genre has its own canons that authors have to follow. This film, although extremely predictable, is beautiful and quite watchable. Yes, it’s worth watching in English, the film stars mostly English actors, and their pronunciation is simply wonderful.

And although the budget for Enola Holmes, due to the participation of stars, the use of expensive sets, costumes and graphics, should be rather large (Netflix traditionally does not report figures), the film will most likely find its audience and we will see a sequel. And not just one. Well, it’s still better than Twilight, Divergent or The Maze Runner. However, the first parts of these series also did not foreshadow the nightmare into which the sequels slipped.


The film is drawn out by the actors and scenery, but otherwise it is a fairly predictable teenage detective story.

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