YA on Screen – Netflix’s Enola Holmes Review

Image: Netflix

For a long time, I was wandering through the wide expanses of Netflix, but nothing had really taken my fancy, so, when I heard that there would be a new Sherlock Holmes film hitting Netflix, I was pretty excited. As a fan of the BBC’s version, which only seemed to grace our screens once in a blue moon, I was interested to see the interpretation of Conan Doyle’s iconic mysteries. Like my last YA on Screen pick , Enola Holmes is a retelling of a classic tale, reimagined with a female protagonist, also set in a time when women weren’t seen as capable leaders or intellectuals. It’s based off a series by Nancy Springer.

Enola Holmes is the younger sister of Mycroft and Sherlock Holmes, brought up by their mother on their rambling country estate. An avid reader, budding scientist and no stranger to Jiu-Jitsu, it’s safe to say that Enola’s upbringing is atypical for girls at that time. One day, her mother goes missing, and she takes it upon herself to find her, but in order to do so, she’ll have to embark on a treacherous adventure and confront her mother’s secretive past.

Millie Bobby Brown’s portrayal of Enola was the highlight of the film – likable without being pretentious, rebellious without being reckless. Her little chats to the camera were funny and well timed, which made sense, as the film is directed by Fleabag’s Harry Bradbeer, which also used a similar technique. Another favourite was Susan Wokoma’s Edith, who owns a tea shop while teaching Jiu-Jitsu to women in victorian London on the side – an incredible combination if you ask me.

The sprinkling of historical references (like the Third Reform Act of 1884) made the film truly come to life, as well as the beautiful sets, and even watching it on a TV as opposed to the big screen gave an immersive experience.

The film was absolutely jam-packed with positive messages for young girls. At times it felt a tad formulaic, but maybe that is because films discussing these topics aren’t as common and I wasn’t used to seeing messages like this on screen.

One thing that I picked up from the film that I thought was really interesting was the portrayal of the women’s suffrage movement, in particular, the more radical campaigners of the time. It demonstrated that changemakers stand out from the crowd, and are sometimes even ostracised from society; radical ideas rarely come from those who follow the herd. A bold yet necessary theme to include, it really made Enola Holmes stand out as a YA adaptation.

The mystery wasn’t exactly mind-blowing – fans of Holmes are used to quick deductions and seemingly uncrackable cases, but as the film goes on, it becomes clear that that the whodunnit isn’t really that important, and that there are bigger things to worry about.

So, if you’re looking for a fiesty, intelligent and entertaining female lead in a YA reimagination of a classic, exploring the importance of standing up for what you believe in, women’s rights, and believing in yourself, this is one for you, and all the family for that matter.

Star rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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YA on Screen: Netflix’s Cursed Review

Image: Netflix via IMDb

Netflix’s latest fantasy release, written in tandem with the YA graphic novel of the same name, takes the age-old legends of King Arthur and Merlin, and retell them from the perspective of Nimue. A member of the persecuted Fey, she is forced to flee her village after a savage attack by the Red Paladins, and join forces with mercenary Arthur. With the Sword of Power in her possession and as a holder of mysterious yet devastating botanical powers that she is learning to control, she must embark on a personal and literal journey to protect her people and stand up for what is right in a corrupt kingdom.

There are few moments of respite in this high-octane story that takes us travelling through the forests and settlements of early Britain – when we are not witnessing gruesome slaughter and attacks by heartless paladins, we are privy to some heated, intense confrontations. Some pertinent themes are also intertwined with the plot: the futility of war, supremacy, religion, and the corruption of those in power.

Anyone who knows me knows that my favourite TV series of all time is BBC’s Merlin – every time someone mentions it, I feel a pang of nostalgia for it’s charm, humour and quality characters. So, I really wanted to love Cursed, and find a series that would take the tale that I had grown up watching in a different direction.

This series has an incredibly ambitious storyline; there are constant cuts to different characters, interspersed with beautiful illustrations, perhaps a homage to the graphic novel that this is based on. I really struggled to understand the relevance of the many side-plots scattered here and there, as they clouded the story and didn’t seem to relate to Nimue’s journey. Maybe, they’ll have greater significance in series two, but for now, they felt like they were slightly irrelevant. That being said, I particularly liked Pym’s (Nimue’s best friend) story, as she is probably the most entertaining character in the series.

There were too many elements in Cursed for my little brain to comprehend: I still don’t know where it’s set, which is a key detail. In the series, we see the following groups: the Trinity Guard, Red Paladins, Romans, Fey (with many groups amongst them), Viking raiders, the Pendragons, nuns, and the Lepers. Some more Vikings drop in at some point, but I couldn’t tell you want they wanted or why they were there, and there’s also this guy with tattoos on his face that sneaks around doing creepy things and a woman who wears a bird costume and can deliver messages by bird. I still don’t know who both individuals are, and neither IMDb nor Cursed’s Wiki page is giving me many answers. If there had been substantially fewer parties in the series, then I think it would have been easier for the audience to keep track of everyone’s motives and ideologies, both of which were not always clear.

Looking to some of the individual characters, there were definitely some highlights. Merlin was incredibly compelling and enigmatic, and was the focal point of any scene in which he appeared. Uther was the stereotypical tyrant, and as I mentioned before, I really liked Pym’s character, as well as Igraine/Morgana. I’m holding out for some big character development for Nimue and Arthur in the next series, because I felt they could be fleshed out a little more. The Weeping Monk really intrigued me, and has potential, while I wanted a little more backstory on the Green Knight aka Gawain. If some of the sub-plots had been cut away, then maybe there would be more space for character development and general explanation of what is going on.

Comparing series is difficult when the intended audiences are different and different stories are being told, but I think that BBC’s Merlin has a slight edge over Cursed. Why? It has strong character development, humour, and the aforementioned charm, but in all fairness, it’s had five series to build on the initial foundations laid in series one. Cursed has strong foundations, and I think if the plot is streamlined, more time is given to developing characters and more exposition, then I think the show could be a real winner. I will definitely be watching series two (if there is one), and I’ll be back with another review.

Is it worth watching? I would say yes, for the stand-out performances, salient themes and impressive battle scenes. Maybe keep a notebook handy, though!

Rating:

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Take Care, Al

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After meeting online, Simon Spier has been in contact with the elusive Blue over email, sharing their experiences of coming out with one another. It’s not long before the pair are really close, sharing secrets that they wouldn’t even tell their best friends. What’s more, not only do Blue and Simon go to the same school, but they are in the same year – as Simon begins to fall for Blue, he wants to know Blue’s real identity…

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My 2018 Summer Break Rom-Com Rundown

As I’ve probably mentioned before, last summer I took my GCSEs, the culmination of two years of hard work and pain. This also meant that I had a really long summer break, and a lot of time on my hands – probably too much time, if I’m honest. Instead of spending most of my time preparing for my A-levels, (well, I spent some of my time working…) I decided to delve into Netflix’s wide array of Teen Rom-Coms. Now that I’m back at school, I’m turning my attention to my A-levels, so I thought I’d share my thoughts with you.

The 3 I watched have two key things in common; they have very similar storylines (intelligent/slightly awkward girl with a quirky/overenthusiastic best friend who overcomes the obstacles set by a mean “popular” girl to be with a hot “jock” boy), and like most teen Rom-Coms, are set in American high schools. As a British teen, I have no experience of what these schools are like – are they very different from the films? Are they that cliquey? Let me know in the comments!

I have rated each out of 5 for two categories: Realistic to Teen Struggles (RTS) and Feel-Good Factor (FGF). The first is about how well they represent some of the issues that teens face when growing up, and the second is about if they lifted my mood and gave me a positive feeling.

  1. The Kissing Booth

Based on a book by Beth Reekles

The Kissing Booth

Elle (Joey King) and Lee (Joel Courtney) have been best friends for as long as they can remember, but with this long-term friendship there are rules – one of them being that the other’s relatives are off limits. When they decide to run a Kissing Booth at the School Carnival, things start to get difficult when Elle is paired with her long-term crush, Noah (Jacob Elordi) , who also happens to be Lee’s brother. Will she break their agreement, or stay loyal to her best friend?

I really like the friendship between Lee and Elle – they had such a caring relationship at the beginning of the film. However, I did have a few issues with the film. Noah consistently got into fights and was controlling of Elle’s romantic life, which he had no business meddling with, and Elle agreed to go out on a date with a guy that harassed her. The behaviour of the guys in the film let it down for me, but I did find Elle’s character to be sweet and likeable.

RTS: 2/5 FGF: 3/5

2. To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before

Based on a book by Jenny Han

To_All_the_Boys_I've_Loved_Before_poster

Lara Jean (Lana Condor) decided to write five letters to all the boys that she has had a crush on – a way to express her emotions. Of course, these letters were never meant to be sent. Until one day, when they mysteriously find their way out of her special hiding place, and all of a sudden her next door neighbour and her sister’s boyfriend, Josh Sanderson (Israel Broussard) , and the popular loved-by-everyone Peter Kavinsky (Noah Centineo), among others, know the intense feelings she once had for them.

This was my favourite of the bunch – it’s about time that a teen rom-com has an East-Asian lead. I loved the sister friendship and support in Lara Jean’s family – I really appreciate seeing teenage girls supporting one another. I think that Lara Jeans is a very relatable character, especially for me – her character was not a cliche.  Another highlight of this novel is Peter Kavinsky – not simply for his good looks, but for how well he treats and respects Lara Jean, which I think is really important in teen movies, especially as they are watched by so many. The post-credit scene made me want a prequel, so I’m reading the books at the moment so I can find out before it’s released (review coming soon!)

RTS: 4.5/5 FGF: 4.5/5

3. Sierra Burgess is a Loser

Sierra_Burgess_Is_a_Loser

When jock Jamey (Noah Centineo) asks for Veronica’s phone number, it’s not hers he gets – it’s that of Stanford Hopeful Sierra (Shannon Purser). They then decide to work together to win over Jamey, without him knowing that Sierra is writing the texts, not Veronica…

Sierra Burgess is a Loser also stars the charming Noah Centineo as Jamey. I really respect the show for the way they handled body positivity – the unrealistic beauty standard teenagers face is mentioned, but Sierra is confident within herself, and most importantly, shows signs of accepting herself for who she is. However, there are some negatives that I think are worth mentioning. Firstly, and this may be an unpopular opinion, but I don’t think Sierra deserved Jamey. She basically catfished him about her identity, even though she had many opportunities to back out. That’s not how I would have treated Jamey, is all I’m saying. The story did however end nicely, and all was resolved.

RTS: 4/5 FGF: 2/5

Overall, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before came out on top – It was a feel-good movie, one you can curl up and watch on an autumnal day. It doesn’t really follow the book, with many of the scenes in a different order, but I think it works really well, with the personalities of Lara Jean and Peter really coming across.

If you decide to watch any of these, please let me know! If you want to keep up with all things Fiction For Teens, then please don’t forget to check out my Instagram here  and my twitter here!