Enola Holmes ★★★½

“You see the world so closely, but do you see how it’s changing?”

Ironically, Enola Holmes suffers most when it gives space to its canonical characters, struggling to build momentum during a lengthy preamble featuring Henry Cavill as Sherlock and Sam Clafin as Mycroft Holmes. It’s weird to talk about a spin-off to a century-old franchise getting lost in “fan service”, but neither Cavill nor Clafin are particularly compelling inheriting these roles, and the film suffers from its repeated insistence that the pair exist as a centre of gravity within its universe.

In contrast, once Enola Holmes allows its title character to take centre-stage, the film becomes a propulsive and playful period adventure. Director Harry Bradbeer is best known for his work on Fleabag, and the film’s central innovation comes from allowing the eponymous detective to address the camera and make the audience complicit in her delightful distractions. Enola Holmes banks Enola being more fun than Sherlock or Mycroft, but she also has a much stronger presence. Millie Bobby Brown is tremendous in the role, showing a confidence that many performers twice her age have yet to master, managing to be charming and complex in equal measure. It is simply a joy to spend time with Brown as Enola, and hard not to root for her as she wanders through a fairly standard mystery and a pretty straightforward plot.

Indeed, the scenes with Cavill and Clafin are so frustrating because they frequently sap the momentum and the fun of watching Enola at work. This arguably works better with Mycroft than with Sherlock, because at least Mycroft is supposed to be a killjoy, although the film seems more impressed with him than it ought to be. Instead, Enola Holmes roars to life when its hero is winking at the camera, confessing her own doubts about her improvised plans to the audience, and moving faster than the world around her can keep up.