2020’s “Enola Holmes” made for a fun, if not slightly uninspired, romp that saw “Stranger Things” actress Millie Bobby Brown take the spotlight as the sister of one of fiction’s greatest detectives: Sherlock Holmes. In lieu of Benedict Cumberbatch’s stoicism and Robert Downey Jr’s flamboyance, Brown brings a different kind of charm to the table. She’s impatient, bubbly, and daring and carries all the fires of youth that have since cooled in the more recent depictions of Sherlock. Unfortunately, a cliched plot and the film’s heavy-handed commentary on patriarchal oppression hampered some of the enjoyment of the first instalment. At the end of it, of course, Enola had proven herself to be every bit the equal of her brothers with her mother, Eudoria Holmes, training her in the arts and sciences.
Well, now that the character of Enola is more established, there’s little room to hide in the sequel. Can Brown’s character break past the legacy of Arthur Conan Doyle’s detective lead while still honouring the spirit of his source material? Or will the sequel prove to be the lesser sibling? Let’s find out!
The film follows Enola building upon the success of her first big case with her starting a detective agency in London. It’s slow at first as people are put off by either her age or gender, while some of them just go on to ask if her brother Sherlock is around. Lucky for her, a poor little girl named Bessie comes into her office enlisting her aid in finding her sister, Sarah. This case soon leads her to a matchstick factory where women have been mysteriously dying of disease. She goes undercover at the factory to crack the case and unearth a sinister plot brewing. She’ll need all the help she can get from her friends to uncover the truth, and maybe a little hand from her brother Sherlock as well.
While “Enola Holmes 2” still explores the trials and tribulations of being an inquisitive, intelligent girl in a Englishman’s world, the plot takes on a richer and wider dimension than the first film. The film tackles issues of child labour, the exploitation of the working class and corruption. The highest compliment we can pay this film is that it handles its complex themes with grace and levity without ever dimishing them.
In spite of the absence of Sam Claflin as Mycroft this time around, the film manages to introduce a whole cavalcade of colourful characters like the street-wise Mae played by Abbie Hern and David Thewlis as the sinister Grail. The film also makes time to develop Enola’s relationship with her brother Sherlock, the handsome and progressive Lord Viscount Tewkesbury and her delightfully devil-may-care mother, Eudoria.
The writing in the film is a constant delight as writer Jack Thorne weaves quips, jokes and jabs effortlessly between dialogue. “Enola Holmes 2” has found better footing than its predecessor in establishing Enola as a more dynamic and complicated individual. We see her struggle with the desire to prove herself to the world which leads to her denying assistance from those around her.
It’s a nice nod to Doyle’s original depiction of the character as a moody loner. Enola’s arc in the film ultimately meets an organic and satisfying conclusion. One that explores the nuances of her character, while still delivering some great YA fun at the same time!
Accompanying its more mature plot are more bombastic and ambitious action sequences as well. As Enola uncovers a conspiracy behind Sarah’s disappearance and the slow death of working-class women, she finds herself having to do battle with the local authorities and corrupt parties in the background. One particularly memorable scene involves Enola and her mother Eudoria taking on constables in the woods after a high-speed carriage chase. All set to a choral “Hallelujah” in the background. Corny and garish? Sure but a welcome action break in the film’s plot. The actual mystery itself is quite well set up with enough twists and turns to keep you guessing. Rather in line with author Nancy Springer’s style found in the “Enola Holmes” novels.
Need we say more about Millie Bobby Brown’s performance as Enola? From her time in “Stranger Things” as Eleven, we’ve seen that the young Brit has the gravitas and the depth to bring fury on screen. In “Enola Holmes 2”, we see her able to flex her comedic muscles as well, as she embodies all the chaotic genius and ego of her character’s Holmes heritage. It’s also nice to see our future Superman, Henry Cavill play a bigger role in the sequel as the famous Sherlock. He’s a little rigid compared to other iterations of the character but it’s fine, this is Enola’s show.
Whenever Louis Partridge’s adorkable and hunky Viscount Tewkesbury appears on screen with Enola, it’s always a joy as we watch their push-and-pull dynamic play out. Much like Martin Freeman’s Watson in BBC’s “Sherlock”, Tewkesbury serves to bring the best out of Enola as he helps her realise that her strength does not mean isolation. Helena Bonham Carter is simply glorious as the Holmes matriarch, Eudoria, as she aids her daughter while raising some hell along the way. Sharon Duncan-Brewster, though, easily steals the show as the seemingly timid Ms Mira Tory. Seriously, we did not see that coming!
If there’s perhaps one minor flaw we had with the film, it’s that the story could have done a better job of elaborating on the importance of Sarah Chapman as a historical figure during the era. She does get a nice epilogue at the end and her history is fascinating, though.
Harry Bradbeer’s “Enola Holmes 2” is a significant improvement over its predecessor. Writer Jack Thorne wonderfully brings author Nancy Springer’s characters to life with intelligence, humour and dignity. Millie Bobby Brown once again proves that she can share the scene with British titans the likes of Henry Cavill, David Thewlis and Helena Bonham Carter, and still stand tall. If this is the trajectory that Bradbeer and company have for the “Enola Holmes” film series, then it’s no mystery why people will return for more.
Be sure to catch Millie Bobby Brown cracking the case on Netflix today!
Netflix's "Enola Holmes 2" Review
Harry Bradbeer's "Enola Holmes 2" is a significant improvement over its predecessor. Writer Jack Thorne wonderfully brings author Nancy Springer's characters to life with intelligence, humour and dignity. Millie Bobby Brown once again proves that she can share the scene with British titans the likes of Henry Cavill, David Thewlis and Helena Bonham Carter, and still stand tall. If this is the trajectory that Bradbeer and company have for the "Enola Holmes" film series, then it's no mystery why people will return for more.
- Netflix's "Enola Holmes 2" Review