There is no dearth of adaptations of Doyle’s famed ‘Sherlock Holmes’, but ‘Enola Holmes’ stands out with its subtle infusion of suffragist history into the narrative and the silent vigil it gives to the memory of women who disappeared from history.
Are you aware of the thankless contributions of Sophia to the prodigious body of work produced by Leo Tolstoy? Or perhaps you’ve heard of the mysterious disappearance of Maria Mozart from the music scene even though she rivalled her brother in talent? The slow march of history, you see, has been unkind to these ‘missing’ women, that is to say, little by way of record ascertains them as forces behind the achievements of the men in their life. But history knows, and history is mute, on the vibrance of these personalities whose wings were cut too soon.
Mainstream history has been a cheery witness to countless men with minds of repute, but its glaring silence on the women behind the scenes, devoured by shadows, camouflages a deeper, exclusionist form of social violence. ‘Enola Holmes’ questions the ‘What If’ in creating Enola, the alter ego of Sherlock, who must battle stringent social norms looking to kill her spirit, in addition to the personal devils of Doyle’s original character.Enola’s sharp attention to detail, and steadfastness in chasing a trail of clues left behind by her mother, are remarkable.
The feminist twist to the narrative in Enola Holmes should be considered a silent vigil to the memory of those women who disappeared from history: Enola embodies all of them. Though no less than her brother Sherlock in wits, Enola is doomed to a life of biting her spitfire tongue and giving in to the oppressive ideals of Victorian womanhood. But our heroine refuses to backdown, using her ingenuity time and again to make clever escapades. Her character arc comes full circle as she charts her own path as a sleuth, winning the admiration of Sherlock who had once dismissed her to be of inconsequence, and the wrath of Mycroft who would much prefer confining her to a boarding school and marrying her off.
Beautiful visuals and vivacious, animated mannerisms of Enola (Millie Bobby Brown), bring the movie to life. As Brown subtly breaks the fourth wall, looking straight into the camera with one bright eye and barely suppressed dry wit and mocking humour, the audience is instantly endeared to the character across screens, and cannot shake off the feeling of sharing a private joke with Enola.The direction is such, and the casting of Brown so perfect, they add their own linguistics to the entire visual.
‘Enola Holmes’ does something that no other adaptation had thought of: it makes the stern, rather serious writings of Conan Doyle, colourfully accessible to children. Enola is the kind of character whose antics one would like to gift to the young girls in one’s acquaintance, for she makes a solid addition to the list of fictional female role models. Enola Holmes, in this, becomes an archetypical modern fairytale, whose protagonist has the intellectual resources to figure her own way out of societal chains.
Another theme embodied by Enola Holmes is the battle between modernity and conventionality. It pits parochiality of thought against the idea of a new dawn: the elderly might wish, desperately, to cling on to the past way of things (in this case: an inability to accept voting rights for women), but the young ideas of change will always find a way to flood away the oppression of the past. This theme is so poignantly visualised near the end of the movie that it heightens the watch-ability of the rest of the narrativeseveral-fold. The idea is that the older generation’s grip onto conventions may be deluding enough to ignore our pleas for change, but our voice must not become silent, as Enola learns first hand. Just some food for thought.
Added to that is the subtle idea that, yes, Enola was guided by her mother’s lingering presence like a north-star, but she ended up following a path of compassion as compared to the aggression that her mother was going to resort to for autonomy. The mother and daughter meet again, drawn to each other over miles of separation, but Enola, by then, has grown into something different than what Eudoria had intended, yet just as much of a wildling individualist as her mother could ever wish for. It is a thought provoking ending: bittersweet as the story comes full circle and yet leaves space for the possibility of a sequel.
Feature Image Credits: PINTEREST