Austin Burke’s review published on Letterboxd:
While I actually watched Enola Holmes first, I am going to go ahead and log this film ahead of its release. This is absolutely going to be divisive, and that’s where I will start. This film is bleak, uncompromising, tough to watch at times, and it’s honestly full of many horrific moments. It doesn’t delve all the way into Horror territory, but there is imagery here that will stick with you (in a terrifying way). Let’s start with the inevitable criticisms because I agree with a few of them. There are elements that hold this film back from being truly great and special. With these performances, it’s hard not to be impressed, but it’s almost as if you have to be in the right mindset to watch it.
The story is also stuffed to the brim. There is a lot happening. It isn’t that it feels confusing or convoluted, but it does feel like there may be a bit too much for the already lengthy run-time. There will be few complaints about a lack of character development for most of this cast, but that is only because it takes time to build up almost everyone; it may even take too much time. We could have trimmed a bit off of almost every backstory and still kept the cohesive narrative that we inevitably got. Many will also be turned off by the bleakness from start to finish. It’s a tragic tale, and it isn’t for the faint of heart. All of those criticisms aside, the film as a whole really delivered for me.
It is intense beyond belief. Antonio Campos brings it home by the end, but it constantly kept me intrigued throughout. I was attempting to piece together where we were going to end up. Not every storyline is tied up in a beautiful knot, but they come together seamlessly in the third act. It is an acting showcase, but it also hit home with me (literally). I come from Appalachia, and while I can’t relate to how cold-hearted most were in the film, I can relate to seeing a little piece of where I grew up. That, for me, comes from the way they captured the area. We see these older, broken-down, homes. We encounter individuals who thrive off the strangest of things. One character is on a mission to impress a pastor with her cooking. That is literally what my grandmother used to do (friend chicken for the win). It’s so strange how accurate some of these character traits were, and even though we are dealing with a different time-period, they nail certain integral aspects.
They do go a bit overboard with how evil everyone is, but that is clearly for the sake of the story (and it pays off). The brutality of this film is excellent. They do not hold back on gore, blood, or the emotional trauma that comes with death. I will not say I was “entertained” because of this, but I was fascinated, mesmerized, and locked in. This one will not be as well-received as I would like to see, but (at least) I understand why. The cinematography was great as well. Holland crushes (and even gets the accent mostly right), Pattinson almost steals the show as this “meme-able” villain, Skarsgard is wonderful, and Keough is fascinating as always. Not one performance fell flat. I see shades of Place Beyond the Pines, O’ Brother, Where Art Thou, and Them That Follow. See this one for yourself on Netflix tomorrow.