“Paint your own picture, Enola. Don’t be thrown off course by other people. Especially men!”— Eudoria Holmes (Helena Bonham Carter)
Enola Holmes is not just another one of the ordinary run-of-the-mill mystery motion pictures. It is a nuanced take on feminism, a story of an audacious and confident woman taking on the patriarchal world.
After watching the trailer for ‘Enola Holmes’, I was sitting at the edge of my seat waiting for the movie to come out, and when it finally did, I must say it was rather worth the wait!
Enola Holmes is an enjoyable, exemplary, feminist story about the not-so-well-known but a brilliant Holmes. She is the role-model and heroine we needed in a world that is dominated by patriarchal norms, where we are constantly reminded of the notion that gender roles are archaic and that they need to be done away with. She jabs at the deep-rooted beliefs of the society regarding gender roles and sexual orientation.
Based on the book series by Nancy Springer, Enola Holmes is the story of Sherlock (Henry Cavill) and Mycroft (Sam Claflin) Holmes’ little sister Enola (Millie Bobby Brown). On her 16th birthday, Enola wakes up to find that her mother, Eudoria Holmes (Helena Bonham Carter), has disappeared. The Holmes Brothers are called to look into the disappearance of their mother, however, due the amalgamation of their masculine pride and the strict social norms, they focus more on trying to ‘fix’ their sister rather than searching for their mother.
Set in the mise-en-scéne of Victorian England, 1884, it is an exhilarating feminist movie, disclosing the struggles faced by women during the Women’s Suffrage Movement. A formidable homage to the courageous and valiant women who dared to change the world and just because they refused to wither away in order to gratify or appease men, who felt threatened when faced with confident women, they were labeled coarse or boorish.
Although a sleuthhound narrative, Enola Holmes integrates a multitude of elements which makes it a great watch. At the beginning, Enola mentions that her name spelled backwards is ‘Alone’. She had experienced abandonment since childhood, when she lost her father when she was a baby and her brothers left home soon after. One would think that having faced such grief at such a young age would make her a bitter and contemptuous person. But having a strong and firebrand mother, Enola is accomplished in literature, chess, combat and possesses a predilection for solving puzzles and word games.
However, after their mother’s disappearance, when Mycroft has his first encounter with his sister and finds out that she had no traditional education, he decides to send her to a finishing school to be educated into a “proper lady”. It is here that she remembers one of her mother’s teachings – “There are two paths you can take, Enola. Yours…. or the path others choose for you”. It was an easy decision for her to make. She chose to take her own path. She decides to leave her home in search of her mother.
Enola is a sharp-witted, agile, perceptive and efficient woman who bravely overcomes the intimidating and smutty landscape of 19th century London. On her way, she meets the Viscount Tewkesbury (Louis Partridge), looking like the stereotypical hero, who is also on the run from his family, but is constantly in danger and needs to be rescued. Initially, their encounter seemed unnecessary but as the tale progresses, we realize how delightfully their stories intertwine. Enola’s and Viscount Tewkesbury’s relationship does not comprise the typical romantic relationship dynamic where the rescuee collapses into the arms of the rescuer. Their alliance was more on the concept of ‘if you do me a favour then I will do you a favour’. They alleviate and assist each other out of difficult situations.
Although it belongs to the political drama genre, it is not our prototypical narrative. Every move or statement Enola makes is rooted in the society’s history and politics. She refuses to abide by the society’s allotted gender roles, whether it is to marry or to wear an ‘itchy’ hat.
Thanks to the Director Harry Bradbeer, the viewers are provided with a raw and natural look at a young Victorian woman’s life. The director invites the protagonist to share her thoughts and views directly with the audience and though Enola is a courageous detective ready to play dress-up to get the job done, she is not immune to the patriarchal ways of that time, and these patriarchal notions are upheld by all genders in the society which is evident when Tewkesbury’s grandmother tries to kill him as a way to ensure the reform bill doesn’t pass. The examples of gender inequality are dispersed all through the film and is blatantly addressed when Eudoria’s friend, Edith (Susie Wokoman), reminds Sherlock of his privileges as a white man.
To conclude we can say that ‘Enola Holmes’ is a magnificent and an amusing film, although the audience should not expect it to be just another one of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes’ remake. We would be tempted to compare her to Sherlock, but we need to remember that the choices she makes, whether it’s about her clothes or education or defending her mother, are her choices. The sad truth about this movie is the fact that it can still be relatable and relevant to today’s society in so many ways. It shows us that despite all the progress and all those years of struggle behind us, we still have a long road ahead of us when it comes to equality.
Patriarchy and Mental Health:
The cultural norms and societal values that we have been living in tend to either disparage mental illness or simply dismiss it as a health condition. The dehumanizing attitude towards womxn and the domineering misogyny continue to marginalize womxn. Men tend to use the excuse of protection to oppress and control womxn. The psychological and the emotional abuse womxn go through on a daily basis, puts them at a greater risk for depression, suicide and post traumatic stress disorder. A form of psychological manipulation called gaslighting, is also commonly used to convince the victims that their recollection of events are false.
It is paramount to realize the patriarchal structures we live in are toxic and that we don’t need to remain in a space that feels unsafe. The times have changed. There are helplines and services available in communities that can help us along the way.
At Pause for Perspective we provide therapy for womxn to help them find the strength they already possess to stand up for themselves. We offer counselling for individuals, groups and families of all ages alongside an array of Mindfulness Based Programs. It is only with careful consideration and awareness of intersectionality can we sidestep patriarchy.
Written by Insha Fatima, Writer, Pause for Perspective