Turns out Mycroft and Sherlock Holmes had a much younger kid sister, at least according to this movie and the books it’s based on. Enola (Millie Bobby Brown) has been raised in relative isolation by her bohemian mother (Helena Bonham Carter) – who goes missing on the youngsters sixteenth birthday.
So there’s our underlying mystery set up. Enola takes far more after her more famous sleuthing brother (Henry Cavill, a nicely laconic but oddly beefed up Sherlock) than the cold and rigid eldest (Sam Claflin) who only wants her to go to a harsh finishing school, learn how to be a proper lady, and make a suitable marriage. Enola is, quite rightly, having none of it.
And so she sets off both to escape her fate as much as to track down her missing mother. And then she runs into a young Marquess, also on the run from his family, and we have our subplot, too.
Story-wise, it’s not too bad. It’s not exactly edge of the seat, but as a family mystery it’s entirely watchable. It looks good, the acting is good (who knew MBB was English?!) and it certainly kept me entertained for the evening.
However, the more I think about it, the less keen I am on the themes and underlying elements. There is something just a bit off about the portrayal of the equality struggle. Enola is fierce and bright and independent – but… I dunno. Her story revolves around men, or needing her mother. Her mother who, fighting the same battle, just walks out (not a spoiler, we’re told before it even becomes a mystery) and abandons her daughter to the wardship of a pantomime villain like misogynist, Mycroft? Surely any other approach could have worked?
I’m not articulating well what I found a bit ‘meh’ here. On the surface it’s fine, perhaps I’m just bored with the whole “girl has to fight the patriarchy” narrative, which alas isn’t as consigned to historical fiction as it should be.
Anyway. Despite that, I still recommend the movie as a relatively light-hearted couple of hours of entertainment. It moves along at reasonable pace, and I found the asides-to-camera tone at the top level to be fiesty and fun. Perhaps I shouldn’t have looked too deeply into a bit of semi-fluff entertainment!
Released: 23rd September 2020
Viewed: 25th September 2020
Running time: 123 minutes
My rating: 6/10 – 7.5 for enjoyability, but marks off for substance