Sherlock Holmes is probably the first word that comes to mind when you hear the word- detective or mystery. Arthur Conan Doyle’s books have carried the same status-quo and accumulated pools of love all these years from readers across the world. So, discovering that Sherlock had a sister who was hiding behind the pages of a series of mystery books was a thrilling episode of Google for me, hungrily devouring all that was available on the internet about Enola Holmes. As I braced myself to critically analyze the movie, just like any book lover would, I also wanted to take this as an opportunity to know this mystery prodigy sister of Sherlock. Enola Holmes was carved as a character by author Nancy Springer, who wrote her first in this series- The Case of the Missing Marquess in the year 2006. What sprouted as a novel and marked the presence of Enola Holmes, secret sister of Sherlock who was sent away to finish school after their mother’s disappearance came on to become a mystery series comprising of six books. In the other concurring parts, Enola, a 14-year-old teenager, is found solving missing person cases (or like she calls it – “finding people with lost souls”) with much advancement. The Netflix movie Enola Holmes is based on the aforementioned first part of the book series.
As I browse through the theories cited by various writers on the internet about Enola Holmes- her non-existence in Arthur Conon Doyle’s version of Sherlock Holmes which states that he had only one brother, Mycroft, the reason she was sent away to finish her school, and what instigated Enola to be a rebel in the Victorian Era detesting corsets- Virginia Woolf’s book Room of one’s own comes to mind. The book through its feminist essays focusses on two things that are of absolute necessity for a woman to pursue anything she’d like – a room of her own and money. In her book, interestingly Woolf draws a comparison between William Shakespeare and his imaginary sister Judith, if there existed one, mentioning how famous she would have been if it wasn’t for the sexist and patriarchal society that stopped women from pursuing art, which was supposedly reserved for the men. Enola Holmes projects a similar vibe of navigating through this prejudiced society. This piqued up my interest in watching the movie even more as compared to my past likeness towards Sherlock.
The movie cast reaped equal attention as the books which might take up a hike amidst readers soon. Millie Bobby Brown stars as the 16-year-old protagonist, Enola Holmes. The movie-watching experience was a pleasure and ticked the boxes of what I have read and researched about Enola. The emotional sibling connection between Enola and Sherlock was absent and that somehow is a good explanation to justify her absence from Arthur Conan Doyle’s books. The movie was amusing and impressive in parts. Our lead character is equal portions of charming and daring. She knows jujitsu and makes her move in an impressionable flair- be it deciphering a message, word puzzle, or attacking her enemy. The overall motif of the movie resonated a lot with Enola Holmes’s character, blurring the definition of a woman’s position and choices in a society, which once upon a time was stringent on the coy ways of living women should acquire. Enola sets a perfect example of breaking a stereotypical society, which must now shapeshift and provide women with the right of choices they deserve. What won me most was her mother’s reasoning of why she left- “because I couldn’t bear to have this world be your future. And so I had to fight”. The ideologies this mother-daughter pair set are admirable- a soothing balm of feminism, privileged yet comforting. And the camaraderie Sherlock builds with her sister in the course of the movie is a delight to watch, though it didn’t surprise me at all why Sherlock would want her to be his ward; she is extraordinarily talented just like him. But her escape from them for the third time says more than being in the clutches of her brothers.
And just like Woolf talks about a woman possessing a room of her own and money to excel, Enola’s mother made sure to leave her some as she prepared her for the ferocious world of men. Apart from the similarities and discrepancies with the book (Enola is 14 when she solves her first case), the story, and the mystery, I for one did look forward to seeing if she is one for the wit, and outwits Robert Downey Jr.’s character as Sherlock that pulled off witticism in full throttle! And I can say with assurance I wasn’t disappointed at all. This is your perfect dose of prejudice and what one needs to break the wheel of stereotypes, in the form of a tale that will take you back to the time of Sherlock Holmes mystery stories but will also make you marvel at this new detective. Looking forward to more of Enola Holmes.