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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Enola Holmes stars Millie Bobby Brown (Stranger Things) and is based on the book series by Nancy Springer. It's lots of fun, but there's some potentially scary action and violence. Enola (Brown) regularly uses her martial arts and combat training to take down people attacking her, including some who wield weapons like knives and shotguns. (Potential spoiler alerts!) In one fight scene, she appears to have drowned but survives to blow up a building and escape harm. In another, her friend Lord Tewksbury (Louis Partridge) is shot in the chest. Teens escape an assassin by jumping off a train; in a climactic scene, a character dies via blunt force to the head, which includes a nasty crunching noise. Enola also smashes an adult over the head with a teapot, and an authority figure locks her in a room. Language is mild and includes "hell," "oh my God," and "dear God." Despite the intense moments, parents couldn't ask for a better role model for their tween and teen daughters than strong, independent Enola, who models courage, intelligence, and integrity through her actions. She has been raised outside of social constraints and taught to think and live for herself. She helps Tewksbury even though it means putting herself in danger. The two teens seem to share an attraction and the desire for a future together; at one point, he kisses her hand.
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What's the story?
ENOLA HOLMES (Millie Bobby Brown) has been raised by her mother alone in their vast country estate to be a strong, independent free thinker. The two are exceptionally close until Mrs. Holmes (Helena Bonham Carter) suddenly disappears on Enola's 16th birthday. Enola's brothers -- renowned detective Sherlock (Henry Cavill) and uptight politician Mycroft (Sam Claflin) -- are called in to care for her and help find their mother. The men are taken aback to find Enola, whom they haven't seen in years, grown up and, according to the straight-laced standards of Victorian England, wildly unrestrained. Mycroft plans to send her to finishing school while Sherlock searches for their mother, who appears to be caught up in a potentially violent women's suffrage movement. But Enola has other plans and escapes them both. Through a series of gender-bending disguises and adventures, she sets herself up in London to find her mother on her own. Complicating matters is her entanglement in the misadventures of the young marquess Lord Tewksbury (Louis Partridge), who's on the run from both his family and a murderous mystery man.
Is it any good?
Fast-paced, clever, and hugely entertaining, this film will delight fans of Brown and surely bring her more followers thanks to this outstanding role. Brown has become a cultural icon of girl power: Girls everywhere wanted to be her Stranger Things character Eleven, and now they'll crave to be the fiercely independent, confident, wily Enola, too. Brown (who's also a producer on Enola Holmes) pairs off against a cast of established actors, including Bonham Carter and Cavill, and she fills nearly every scene with energy and intelligence in a role that's as physical as it is emotional. The technique of having her character conspiratorially break the fourth wall to talk directly to the camera (like a teen-friendly Fleabag) creates complicity with the viewer. Interestingly, that playful dialogue seems to come and go with her character's own confidence and fortune.
Sherlock fans may be reluctant to accept a younger and more forward-thinking sister who outsmarts the great detective. And history buffs may bristle at the imposition of some contemporary values on late 1800s-era London. But smashing historical constructions and patriarchal obstacles seems to be exactly the point. And, anyway, doesn't the magic of many movies lie precisely in the suspension of disbelief? Yes, Enola's regular combat conquests and speedy deductions are suspect. But really, who cares when a film is so well put together and just plain fun to watch? Considering that there are several books in the source series, here's hoping that Enola Holmes marks the start of an exciting new franchise.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how the characters in Enola Holmes compare to what you already knew of Sherlock Holmes and his world.
Enola often talks to the camera in a technique known as "breaking the fourth wall." What's your reaction to this technique? Where else have you seen it?
What's your opinion of the choices Mrs. Holmes makes? How about Sherlock and Mycroft?
- On DVD or streaming: September 23, 2020
- Cast: Millie Bobby Brown, Henry Cavill, Sam Claflin
- Director: Harry Bradbeer
- Studio: Netflix
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- Topics: Activism, Adventures, Book Characters, Brothers and Sisters, Friendship, Great Girl Role Models, History
- Character strengths: Courage, Integrity
- Run time: 123 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: some violence
- Awards/Honors: Common Sense Selection
- Last updated: September 25, 2020
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