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Review by Rich Cline |
dir Harry Bradbeer
scr Jack Thorne
prd Mary Parent, Alex Garcia, Ali Mendes, Millie Bobby Brown, Paige Brown
with Millie Bobby Brown, Henry Cavill, Sam Claflin, Helena Bonham Carter, Louis Partridge, Adeel Akhtar, Fiona Shaw, Frances de la Tour, Burn Gorman, Susan Wokoma, Claire Rushbrook, Hattie Morahan
release US/UK 23.Sep.20
20/UK Netflix 2h03
Is it streaming?
Snappy and sometimes downright goofy, this comical adventure is fast and entertaining, loaded with messages about empowerment. It's also a spiralling web of clues and red herrings, hints of impending doom and moments of warm affection. While the Sherlock Holmes connection lends some oomph, the story's tricks aren't as clever as what Conan Doyle might have come up with. But it's so much fun that a franchise would be welcome.
In 1884 England, Enola (Brown) wakes up on her 16th birthday to find her free-spirited mother (Bonham Carter) missing, leaving behind a series of perplexing gifts. Older brothers Sherlock and Mycroft (Cavill and Clafin) return home, shocked that the house has fallen into disrepair. As has Enola. They decide she needs to attend finishing school, but she outwits them, following her mother's clues to London. Along the way, she gets entangled with a runaway teen viscount (Partridge) who needs her help. The question is how long she can stay one step ahead of her siblings.
These brothers are hilariously snooty, calling Enola a wildling. The observant Sherlock is far less dismissive than the harsh Mycroft, but both push her to clean up so she'll attract a husband, something she's not remotely interested in. She's more intrigued by word games and elaborate mysteries. It's a bit of a problem that the audience is more interested in finding clues as well, because some extended interludes feel unnecessarily off-topic, enjoyable as they may be.
Brown is spirited and engaging, adding intriguing textures while having a fun with Fleabag-style asides to camera. She holds her own in the cast of scene-stealers, led by the twinkling Cavill and Claflin, with added colour from the likes of Aktar (as a frazzled Scotland Yard detective), Shaw (a fearsome headmistress), de la Tour (the viscount's grandmother) and Gorman (a relentless goon). Plus of course the glorious Bonham Carter. And for teen kicks, Brown's scenes with Partridge have an enjoyable zing.
"There are two paths you can take," Mother says. "Yours or the one others choose for you." Enola tries not to get mixed up in other people's lives, but there are dangers in being too independent and self-reliant. In addition, the issue of gender equality is woven through every level of the plot. These things circle around the story from a variety of angles, resonant but never pushy. And the film's lack of sentimentality keeps it so breezy that we end up wanting more.
R E A D E R R E V I E W SStill waiting for your comments ... don't be shy.
© 2020 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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