British film-maker Harry Bradbeer says his film Enola Holmes, about Sherlock Holmes's free-spirited teenage sister, will resonate with young girls and is firmly rooted in the feminist world that he had created in the dark comedy Fleabag and spy thriller Killing Eve.
The story of Sherlock, created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, has seen multiple iterations in books, cinema and on television, but it is for the first time that instead of the fictional iconic detective, his 16-year-old sister is at the centre of the mystery.
Bradbeer feels the background of the early 19th century -- when the women's movement was in its nascent stage in the UK -- made the setting and the story perfect for 'a feminist take'.
"About halfway through the making of Enola Holmes, I thought, 'I'm making this film for little Fleabags'. Many women that came to me after watching Fleabag said, 'I feel acknowledged, I feel confirmed in who I am'. It brings tears to my eyes," he told PTI in a Zoom interview.
Bradbeer said the film, led by Stranger Things star Millie Bobby Brown, is very much a part of the feminist universe of his past stories.
"There are girls out there who are gonna feel self accepting through this film because she's someone who just wants to live her own life. She's not a particularly selfish person, or reckless, but well thought. I think it's very much in that world (feminist stories). I'm very proud of it."
In the screen adaptation of Nancy Springer's book series, Brown's Enola is an intelligent young girl, who received an unusual upbringing from her mother Eudoria (Helena Bonham Carter) following the death of her father while her two elder brothers, Mycroft (Sam Claflin) and Sherlock (Henry Cavill), are away.
When Eudoria disappears on Enola's 16th birthday, she must set out to find her mother while fighting her brothers's disapproval.
It is a time when the women's suffrage movement is taking shape with a bill coming up in the British parliament even as there is much resistance against it.
"This gave us an opportunity to look at feminism in its early days because female suffrage was beginning from the 1840s to the 1880s. So I love the opportunity to look at the early feminist movement and see how it developed," Bradbeer said.
"I felt like that way I brought another dimension to my interest in feminist art," he said.
The challenge in creating a modern story in a period setting is to make it 'human and not preachy', Bradbeer said, adding he set out to do so by making it funny.
"It's important to not make it too serious. But underlying this whole film is a very serious message, which is that the future is up to us. It's up to a woman if she's going to uphold on her own, to stand on her own two feet."
Enola may be reckless but she is also vulnerable as according to Bradbeer, it is important that people believe in the character.
"She's not a superhero, but she's someone of flesh and blood," the film-maker said about subverting the genre of detective stories.
"I thought finding the heart in the adventure film, finding the politics in it was exciting."
Enola often breaks the fourth wall, addresses the viewer directly, which will remind audiences of Fleabag.
The technique, Bradbeer said, gives a fresh spin to the story where a girl not only goes on an adventure but it's as if "she was grabbing the audience by the scruff of the neck and saying, 'Come with me'."
Another echo from Fleabag is the way the director tackles the theme of women journeying alone.
One of the anagrams for 'Enola' is 'Alone', the protagonist informs the viewer in the trailer.
"I think all my work is about lonely people making friends. There is something very reassuring for women living in this world. To see someone who has to cope on their own and somehow get through is very reassuring. I find that very important in my work.
"I heard an actress the other day talking about the way cinema makes people feel less alone. The power of cinema comes when you meet yourself on the screen. You see what they're going through, you're going through and if they can manage it, you can."
Bradbeer said Brown, who is also one of the producers, was already on board when he joined the film but casting her brothers was a challenge.
"With Sherlock, I wanted a fresher look, someone who hadn't been seen before in that role. But I also wanted someone who could go on a real emotional journey, which other Sherlocks deliberately don't. I needed someone who was on the outside quite reserved and cool and who could eventually care for his sister. Henry was an amazing choice for that. He brought such warmth and humour."
Claflin, on the other hand, the director said, is affable but also has an ability to be reserved and unknowable.
Bonham Carter as Eudoria was a no-brainer as Bradbeer said he needed somebody who could have plausibly produced the most brilliant, but eccentric and dysfunctional children.
"Helen had some wonderful ideas, like Eudoria started the pipe tradition in the family, she was the one who smoked pipe as a child. So it was her pipe Sherlock takes on to use in his life," he said of the actor, known for playing diverse roles like Bellatrix Lestrange in the Harry Potterm films, The Red Queen in 2010's Alice in Wonderland to Princess Margaret in the Netflix series The Crown.
Early reviews of Enola Holmesm have been positive with many predicting a sequel and Bradbeer doesn't deny the possibility.
"I'd love to if that happens. That's that would be amazing."
Also starring Fiona Shaw, Louis Partridge, Adeel Akhtar and Susie Wokoma, Enola Holmes streams on Netflix from September 23.