There are few fictional characters more rebooted, retooled and remade than Sherlock Holmes. From blockbuster movies to acclaimed BBC TV series, 30 actors have played the British super sleuth on screen in this century alone. The last attempt, Will Ferrell’s painfully unfunny parody Holmes & Watson, wasn’t his finest case, but it at least showed Hollywood the tweed-jacketed detective was in need of a makeover. Step forward, Enola Holmes.
Set in the traditional Victorian era of Sherlock’s pomp, this is the Baker Street snoop with quite a serious twist. Adapted from Nancy Springer’s young adult book series of the same name, Enola Holmes follows not the baddie-catching bloke of old (Henry Cavill), but his teen sister instead – forgotten sibling Mycroft (Sam Claflin) is but a lesser-talented bore, relegated to child-minder when Enola’s bohemian mum Eudoria (Helena Bonham Carter) disappears from the family’s country estate one morning. Desperate to track her down, the fledgling gumshoe (Millie Bobby Brown) escapes to London, where she must outwit her famous brothers and unravel a mysterious conspiracy surrounding a vulnerable young lord (Louis Partridge).
Pitched somewhere between Hermione Granger and Fleabag, Bobby Brown’s Netflix rebel is the perfect blend of precocious wit and action finesse. The Stranger Things star recently said she’d had trouble slipping into the correct British accent (despite spending her childhood in Dorset), but you wouldn’t know. Oozing Hollywood charm, Bobby Brown zips between scenes, taking enough time to drop smart-arsed quips to camera (hi there, Phoebe Waller-Bridge) before running, driving or flying off to the next high-stakes stunt. Cavill and Claflin add able, if restrained, support as Enola’s snooty wards, although they’re really only there to provide the boring grown-up archetypes for Bobby Brown to riff off. Elsewhere, Bonham Carter has a ton of fun playing the family’s revolutionary black sheep, whispering secrets when her family’s not looking and eventually vanishing altogether.
Starry cast aside, Enola Holmes benefits from a frantic script (His Dark Materials writer Jack Thorne) – its characters climbing over each other to get to the cleverest putdown first. Occasionally, the faux-intellectual style of dialogue can grow too wordy – phrases like “and yet” or “presently” crop up every other sentence – but Bobby Brown’s natural magnetism means we don’t care too often. There are a lot of pitfalls with Arthur Conan Doyle’s creation: go too complex and you lose the audience; dumb down (like Holmes & Watson) and it’s hard to care whodunnit by the finale. Guy Ritchie’s box office-busting reboot Sherlock Holmes kick-started a franchise in 2009 – thanks largely to the chemistry of Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law – and Enola Holmes might prove an even bigger hit. It’s Sherlock vs his younger, cooler sister then – the game is afoot.
- Director: Harry Bradbeer
- Starring: Millie Bobby Brown, Henry Cavill, Sam Claflin
- Release date: September 23 (Netflix)