Bringing back the cheeky and beloved young-adult iteration of the Holmes universe, Harry Bradbeer’s sequel to the 2020 Netflix hit Enola Holmes, is a film that has settled into the world it is trying to create. With equal parts deduction and action, Enola Holmes 2 makes for a stimulating watch that does not skimp on the intrigue that befits the Holmes name.
The game is, again, afoot for Millie Bobby Brown (Enola) who opens Enola Holmes 2 with a speedy chase sequence across the grimy lanes of Victorian London. A detailed context is provided for the opening through a flashback where we learn that Enola has endeavoured to start her own detective agency in London and has taken on the case of a missing young woman, Sarah Chapman (Hannah Dodd).
While, Sarah’s disappearance guides the main plot of the film, the story also finds itself exploring more of Enola’s inhibitions and motivations. In adaptating a young-adult novel by Nancy Springer, Bradbeer has extended his efforts to go beyond servicing the icon of Sherlock Holmes, Enola’s elder brother played by Henry Cavill. While the film retains a captivating-enough mystery for the audience to follow, it also fleshes out Enola as she develops from a teenager who ran away from her finishing school, to a formidable leading lady who matches her brother in wit.
Millie Bobby Brown does a stellar job at bringing Enola to life, as she excitedly opens her own detective agency in London. However, she finds it difficult to get clientele, being either overshadowed by her brother’s reputation, or being dismissed because of her gender. Echoes of the first film ring loud as Enola, now more independent, is forced to confront the path she wants to take in life. Though Millie’s performance across both the films has leaned towards a lack of subtlety, she is particularly enthralling to watch in these vulnerable moments as she quickly and eagerly delves into stronger emotions of fear and doubt that make for a cohesive and memorable character.
Millie’s portrayal may also be a familiar watch for fans of Killing Eve and Fleabag, both of which were also involved Bradbeer. As Enola, Millie constantly breaks the fourth wall and joins the list of women-led media directed by Bradbeer, whose heroines are trademarked by their addictive fearlessness that is grounded by a comfortable vulnerability.
Enola Holmes 2
Enola’s first name being unusual does not weigh on her, as much as the legacy of her family name. Holmes has been an audience-puller for the film series as well, but Sherlock barely made an impression in the first film. This time around however, Jack Thorne’s script writes in Sherlock as a concerned elder brother whose own latest case crosses path with Enola’s. Consequently, Cavill’s Sherlock gets a lot more screentime, but thankfully manages to not steal the limelight from his sister. The film clearly wants to go down the route of ‘siblings working together on a case,’ but does not spend too much time on building that bond between Sherlock and Enola, resulting in a forgetful attempt.
Also starring in the film are Louis Partridge as Lord Viscount Tewkesbury and Helena Bonham Carter as Eudoria Holmes. As a romantic interest, Lord Tewkesbury’s character checks all the necessary boxes, but that doesn’t end up warranting his existence at all. In fact, if one were to remove the romantic subplot of the film, it wouldn’t make a noticeable change in the story. The now-empty runtime can be easily pivoted towards Carter who plays Enola and Sherlock’s mother. Eudoria is given more time in flashback scenes than the present, therefore wasting an opportunity to have another strong Holmes woman to helm the film.
Following the formula of the first film, the sequel’s primary case that Enola works on, is a fictionalised adaptation of real-life events that took place in Victorian England. While Sarah Chapman’s name is itself a giveaway to the Matchgirls’ strike of 1888 that the film’s plot would hinge upon, it does not take away from the fascinating way that Enola unravels the clues. The film is made better with the fact that this time around Enola is handed a singular case to work on, therefore encouraging an in-depth exploration of the same. Thorne’s screenplay is also a delight to follow because it avoids a Sherlockian treatment of the case.
More than once, Sherlock warns Enola to divorce her emotions from the case at hand to enrich her deduction skills, and it does. But, make no mistake, the film is not an addition to the Sherlock Holmes’ universe, it is rightfully, Enola’s own franchise where she seeks to chart her own legacy for the Holmes name, not only in London but also for the audience watching. The case is therefore not handled with clinical swiftness, but rather with careful empathy.
Though in wrapping up the case, the script disappoints in how it plays out what could have been a thrilling reveal. It would have been more endearing to watch the Holmes siblings put their minds together than a rushed ending that could have been smarter, less expository, and less…elementary.
More focused than its predecessor, Enola Holmes 2 successfully takes its next step into a potential franchise, and for a younger, newer audience serves up a charming, clever and unabashed Holmes to look up to.
Enola Holmes 2 is currently streaming on Netflix