Sher­lock spin-off a lit­tle too ele­men­tary

ENOLA HOLMES (M)

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Film Reviews - Stephen Romei

Net­flix

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Enola Holmes is a non-canon­i­cal spin-off to Arthur Co­nan Doyle’s Sher­lock Holmes sto­ries. In other words, he didn’t write it or cre­ate the main char­ac­ter. The movie, star­ring the re­mark­able Mil­lie Bobby Brown as Enola, Sher­lock’s 16-year-old sis­ter, is based on a book by the pro­lific Amer­i­can au­thor Nancy Springer.

Brown, the same age as her char­ac­ter, is the star of this movie, and the main rea­son to watch it. She hands her on-screen brother Sher­lock (Henry Cav­ill aka Su­per­man) some se­ri­ous act­ing lessons.

The set-up is sim­ple but ef­fec­tive, with Enola tak­ing lots of cheeky peeks over the so-called fourth wall. She looks into the cam­era and speaks to the view­ers. She even asks us ques­tions. Brown is best known as the char­ac­ter Eleven from the sci-fi hor­ror se­ries Stranger Things.

On the July morn­ing of her 16th birth­day, Enola wakes at her pro­vin­cial es­tate to find her mother, Eu­do­ria (He­lena Bon­ham Carter), has dis­ap­peared. We see Eu­do­ria through flash­backs. She is an un­con­ven­tional mother who has raised an un­con­ven­tional daugh­ter, one who is strong of mind and body (ju­jitsu will be­come im­por­tant).

Enola’s broth­ers, Sher­lock and My­croft (Sam Claflin), who have paid no at­ten­tion to her for most of her life, ar­rive from Lon­don and agree their sis­ter should be sent to a fin­ish­ing school, where she can be read­ied to lure a hus­band. When she says she does not want a hus­band, My­croft de­clares: “That’s an­other thing you have to have ed­u­cated out of you.”

Enola es­capes her broth­ers and heads to Lon­don to track down her mother. En route, she meets a hand­some young aris­to­crat, Lord Tewks­bury (Louis Par­tridge), who also has run away from home.

They are pur­sued, for dif­fer­ent rea­sons that merge as the plot de­vel­ops, by the vil­lain, Linthorn (Burn Gor­man, known to Game of Thrones fans as the Night’s Watch rebel Karl Tan­ner). At one point, in mur­der­ous pur­suit of the two teens, he is asked who he is work­ing for. “Eng­land,’’ he says.

This one-word state­ment goes to the his­tor­i­cal back­ground that adds weight to this light­hearted movie (the M rat­ing is for a few mo­ments of the­atri­cal vi­o­lence).

The House of Lords is about to vote on women’s suf­frage. Eu­do­ria

Holmes, we know from the flash­backs, used to hold se­cret meet­ings at her home with a group of women.

And so we have the drama: two run­away teens, one look­ing for her mys­te­ri­ous mother, one be­ing pres­sured over the di­rec­tion of his vote in the House of Lords, the broader de­bate over women re­ceiv­ing the right to vote, and the peo­ple who want to stop that hap­pen­ing at any cost, for the good of “Eng­land”.

There is a lot of tal­ent be­hind this movie. The direc­tor, Harry Brad­beer, has won awards for his TV work, which in­cludes The Bill, The Cops, Fleabag and Killing Eve (Fiona Shaw, so good in that show, is the strict fin­ish­ing school head­mistress in this film). The writer, Jack Thorne, has adapted for the screen nov­els by Nick Hornby (A Long Way Down) and RJ Pala­cio (Won­der, which is ex­cel­lent).

Yet aside from the star, they don’t quite pull it off. The vil­lains are cliched, the plot twists are ob­vi­ous and there’s a so­porific sag in the mid­dle of pro­ceed­ings.

Sher­lock and My­croft, also cliched — one as un­emo­tional, one as mis­an­thropic — are mi­nor char­ac­ters. I don’t want to be un­kind but Cav­ill is a dull Sher­lock Holmes. Per­haps we are spoiled, in re­cent times, by Bene­dict Cum­ber­batch and Johnny Lee Miller tak­ing the role.

Speak­ing of Sher­lock’s emo­tions, or lack of them, there’s an in­ter­est­ing le­gal side to this movie. The Co­nan Doyle Es­tate has sued Net­flix, the au­thor Springer and her pub­lisher Pen­guin for breach of copy­right.

The ba­sis for this law­suit is that Sher­lock shows “feel­ings” in this book/film and in Co­nan Doyle’s sto­ries that only hap­pened in the 10 writ­ten be­tween 1923 and 1927, af­ter the au­thor lost his son in World War I. Only these 10 sto­ries re­main un­der in­tel­lec­tual copy­right.

I haven’t read the book, one of six in Springer’s Enola Holmes se­ries, so I can’t say any­thing about it.

But hav­ing seen the film, and par­tic­u­larly Cav­ill’s per­for­mance in the scene where Enola sug­gests he is show­ing emo­tions, I wouldn’t put money on the law­suit suc­ceed­ing.

Henry Cav­ill as Sher­lock, Sam Claflin as My­croft and Mil­lie Bobby Brown as Enola, the un­fa­mil­iar sib­lings in Enola Holmes

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