When Arthur Conan Doyle published the first story of private detective, Sherlock Holmes, in 1887, he didn’t realize the spark he had ignited. Over a 100 years later, adaptations of the renowned character continue to grow. Most recently, another Sherlock adaptation was released on Netflix, though this one didn’t focus on the famous detective himself but rather his elusive sister, Enola Holmes.
When they meet again, it remains evident that even Sherlock (Henry Cavill) respects and admires Enola’s sheer brilliance. To her oldest brother, Mycroft Holmes (Sam Claflin), Enola Holmes (Millie Bobby Brown) is described as an “ uneducated, underdressed, poorly mannered wildling”. To Sherlock, she is “intelligent”.
Throughout the film, Enola’s character speaks directly to the camera. Not only was this cinematic decision an effective way of guiding the audience, this also forced the audience to understand her on a deeper level. After all, it was important that she wasn’t solely introduced as Sherlock’s sister. Although her brother’s fame paved the path for her own story, being Sherlock Holmes’ sister didn’t make her extraordinary. The 16-year-old shone in her own ways.
Unlike other women of the time who focused on embroidery and table manners, thanks to her mother’s unorthodox teaching methods, Enola Holmes excelled in logic. She was capable of skillfully solving puzzles and independently adapting to new environments. Her talents were utilized when she began tracking down her missing mother (Helena Bonham Carter).
Of course, the woman who birthed Sherlock Holmes wasn’t any simple, old widow. Eudoria Holmes was a suffragette.
Instead of raising her daughter as an obedient housewife, she had trained her to become a strong, independent woman. This is even evident in Enola’s name. Spelled backward, E-n-o-l-a transforms into A-l-o-n-e— Not because her mother wanted her to grow up in isolation but because Eudoria had observed how society had roped women into submission. In those days, society had brainwashed them into thinking that acquiring a husband was essential for success.
It wasn’t the first time Helena Bonham Carter took on the role as a suffragette. In the 2015 film, Suffragette, she led the movement as Edith New.
Although Mycroft Holmes was raised by Eudoria, he didn’t inherit any of his mother’s feminist ideals. Instead of letting his sister learn freely, he entered Enola into a finishing school for young women. Through this, the film emphasized the impact certain types of men had on social standards. While men such as Mycroft Holmes were meant to enforce shackles upon young women as ‘wild’ as Enola, men such as Sherlock Holmes, who stood back and watched the oppression, were just as toxic to society.
Enola’s distinct personality in the film was taken from the Enola Holmes mystery series in 2006 by author, Nancy Springer, who had dedicated six books to the female protagonist. The 2020 film adaptation emulated the first book of the series, The Case of the Missing Marquess.
At the moment, it’s unclear whether or not Enola Holmes will follow the paperback series by Springer but one thing’s for sure- it’d definitely be interesting to see more of this iconic character.