Enola Holmes (2020)
I'm going to start with something totally controversial. I have a history of not being a complete fan of Millie Bobby Brown. It's not that I don't like her. However, I found her performance in Godzilla: King of the Monsters to contain some Eleven-ish facial expressions, that weren't entirely necessary. It had me thinking that maybe Stranger Things was going to be her best role. BUT! I am hereby eating my words. Enola Holmes works because of Brown. That's a fact. She shines here, and it's completely changed my perspective...maybe even enough for me to revisit Godzilla...
Enola Holmes follows the titular Enola on the search for her missing mother, all whilst fighting for her own independence, in a world that wishes for her to sit in a corner and quietly finish the embroidery. It's evident from the very start of this film, that Enola was brought up for anything but embroidery. Her widowed mother has raised her to live a life of freedom, and through a series of flashbacks, we see Eudoria Holmes (Helena Bonham Carter) say things like, "There are two paths we can take, Enola: yours, or the path others choose for you". Of course, when Enola wakes up on her sixteenth birthday to find her beloved mother missing, she enlists the help of her elder brothers, Sherlock and Mycroft. In the end though, it's the sixteen year old girl herself, who takes charge of this mystery (and tackles some other mysteries along the way).
I think the best way to describe this film is "quirky". Brown often breaks the fourth wall, essentially using the convention of direct address to build a close relationship with viewers. This is excellent, as it builds on Enola's character. It's acknowledged several times that Enola spelt backwards reads, "Alone". Rather than seeing this as a negative, it's moreso an indication of Enola's independence and resilience. Her ability to cope without other characters, but also playfully discuss her inner thoughts with viewers, is the clearest demonstration of her self-sufficiency. Whilst breaking the fourth wall is the most noticeable "quirky" directorial choice, there are others that contribute to this film's tone. The centre frame is used more than once. Zooms are used. Animation too. Finally, this film undoubtedly has a quick pace. A noticeable example of this occurs whilst Sherlock and Mycroft play a game of pool and discuss Enola's future. The camera cuts between them and Enola herself, being measured for a uniform at a local finishing school. The quick cuts and juxtaposition, quickly elevate the tension until Enola bubbles over and expresses her preference to continue as she is.
This is a colourful and hopeful look at the world and the future. Although, Enola Holmes is set in the late 1800s, it's clear that some Brechtian historification is present, and this film is less about the feminist movement of the late 19th/early 20th century, and more about the current generation and their future being in their own hands. When Enola says lines like, "My life is my own and the future is up to us," it's less personal encouragement, and more like she's giving viewers the motivation to make a change in the world. Although not all of her lines are delivered through the fourth wall, it's due to the fact that she's already established the audience as a friend, that these words of encouragement are ever more powerful. There are also moments when Enola addresses political issues in a way that is almost meta, or at the very least, all-knowing. In response to the question, "Where are all the servants?" Enola says, "Welcome to the future". The only moment when these motivational words, that are clearly aimed at the modern generation, are perhaps taken too far, is when Enola and Tewkesbury look at an older character and say, "Your time is over". Yep. We get it. The future is in the hands of the kids. You don't need to explicitly remind all of us old folk of our own mortality. Okay, I'm exaggerating, but I'm sure you understand my meaning.
One of the final aspects of this film that I really enjoyed was its moments of comedy. Verbal irony is used well to achieve this. When Enola first enters London, she describes her surroundings in the way that many young hopefuls likely do when entering a perceived thriving metropolis for the very first time. The reality however, does not live up to Enola's descriptions, and the result is quite funny. The best moments of comedy though, have to be attributed to Brown herself. A line is said on the screen, and Brown looks down the barrel in a way that perfectly outlines how she feels in regards to whatever has been uttered. Brown clearly has a great understanding of comedic timing and how one glance can earn a laugh. This may be in part, due to all of the non-verbal communication that she has done on the set of Stranger Things. (Again, I eat my words).
I really loved this film. I won't deny it. I've added it to my list and if ever it is released onto DVD/Blu-ray, it will find pride of place on one of my shelves. Eudoria's advice is relevant to everyone: "Paint your own picture, Enola (Katie). Don't be thrown off course by other people". I hope these words echo in my head at any point when I might be thrown off course...but then I also have Charnstar's words echoing in my head, which tell me that I probably shouldn't totally listen to Eudoria, because she is most definitely a terrorist...