Latest reviews of new albums:
Enola Holmes
  • Composed by Daniel Pemberton
  • Milan / 66m

When the Holmes siblings’ mother goes missing, Sherlock and Mycroft banish their younger sister Enola to a boarding school. She’s not convinced her mother left of her own free will and so sets out to investigate. Millie Bobbie Brown plays Enola in Harry Bradbeer’s adaptation of the novel by Nancy Springer (the eponymous character being her creation, not Arthur Conan Doyle’s) and the film was released on Netflix in September 2020, one of many big screen casualties of Covid-19.

It was the second of tree projects scored by Daniel Pemberton to make their debuts on the streaming service in quick succession (coming after Rising Phoenix and being swiftly followed by The Trial of the Chicago 7) which is quite ironic given he made headlines earlier in the year about their practice of chopping off end titles and not allowing people to watch the credits and listen to the music (which in fact isn’t particularly difficult to circumvent, only needs a couple of presses of the remote).

Daniel Pemberton

Pemberton has become established as a highly versatile composer who scores a wide range of projects, often in quirky style: you never quite know what you’re going to get. For Enola Holmes he has written one of his most “conventional” scores since breaking out in the A-list a few years ago – it’s a great orchestral adventure romp, whose quirks only add to its great sense of fun.

The brilliant main title theme is one of the most memorable pieces of film music of the year: a bouncy rhythm gets a sassy melody on top, the orchestra joined by guitar – it’s modern film music and makes no real attempt to convey the period, which doesn’t particularly matter – the focus is on the vibrant main character and drawing out her charm, which it does beautifully. Interestingly, often during the body of the score Pemberton takes the theme’s rhythm but not its melody and builds blocks on top of it.

The other main theme is just as good: its first real appearance comes in “Cracking the Chrysanthemums Cypher” – it’s also bubbly and full of life, with a slight hint of gypsy music to it (superficially similar to the approach Hans Zimmer took to the more famous Holmes child). In “The Game is Afoot”, Pemberton brilliantly combines the two main themes into a sensationally enjoyable piece.

Those two melodies (in particular the latter) feature throughout the score, but Pemberton does so much with them you sometimes don’t even notice they’re the same thing. Even in the action music – first heard in “Train Escape” – there are fragments of them (with a great brassy blast of the second theme at the conclusion). A third theme is revealed in “Marquis”, an elegant piece (which has a little motif in common with John Lunn’s Downton Abbey music) which goes on to serve as a love theme of sorts.

I love the sweeping string version of the main theme in the lovely “Fields of London” – which is swiftly followed by the deliciously devilish “London Arrival”, a delightful take on the second theme. Playful pizzicato strings feature heavily through the score and a great example comes in “Messages for Mother”, a delightful little standalone piece. Another of those is “Basilwether Hall”, with its cod-gothic classical pastiche.

As the album nears its end there’s a cluster of action cues together, which sum up that side of the score very well. First (and possibly best) is “Escaping Lestrade”, a rousing piece of adventure music which rollicks along at a fevered pace before ending with a moment of reflection; “Making a Lady” briefly interrupts the sequence with a dramatic, serious feel culminating in some heavenly voices; then “School Escape” is completely different, all happy and buoyant as it canters through the two main themes; then “Tick Tock” literally adds an array of tick tock sounds to a set of dark orchestral textures; and finally in “For England” we hear a wordless soprano over some uber-dramatic orchestral posturing and it’s quite wonderful.

Enola Holmes is a delightful score – it’s conventional by recent Pemberton standards but still features a number of quirks and it feels so continually fresh and energetic. By the time we come to the final reprise of the main theme in “The Future is Up to Us” we’ve heard it countless times but it has never worn out its welcome because of how much the composer does with it (and his other main theme). Definitely one of the year’s strongest scores and an album which will reward repeated listens.

Rating: **** | |

Tags: , ,

  1. Mike Kwasniak (Reply) on Sunday 18 October, 2020 at 16:42

    So happy to see this score gaining some recognition. It really captures the adventurous atmosphere of a truly warm and delightful film. Love it!