Enola Holmes, the budding detective, younger sister of Sherlock Holmes (the world famous detective, you may have heard of him – played by Henry Cavill) is back for another cheeky caper in the cleverly titled, Enola Holmes 2. Okay, maybe the title could use an injection of a little style, but do not worry. While the title is lacking flair, the film compensates with heaps of energy and fun. This is especially true for the title character, Enola, played charismatically again by Millie Bobby Brown, who makes charm and pluck seem elementary.
If you have seen 2020’s Enola Holmes film, also directed by Harry Bradbeer (Fleabag) you already have a good idea of what to expect; snappy dialogue, quirky characters, mystery, action, fast-paced edits, and a good dose fourth wall breaking. This followup does not reinvent the wheel, instead Bradbeer uses a similar formula of what worked in the previous entry and builds upon it. The results are another lively, fun romp that will please fans of the original.
This time around Enola, desperate for a client even after her successful sleuthing in the first film, finds one in Bessie (Serrana Su-Ling Bliss), a child and seemingly the only resident of London who does not dismiss Enola for her age, sex, or inability to be her famous brother. Enola is hired to solve the case of her missing sister, Sarah Chapman, who was last seen working at a matchstick factory where being berated, overworked, and docked for the simplest of mistakes is the norm. As always there’s more to the story than meets the eye with the mystery.
The first film set up most of what you need to know about Enola, but just in case, some quick-cut flashback montages help remind us of how we got here. While Enola still lives in the shadow of Sherlock, she does not plan to stay there long, possessing too much pride and confidence in her own skills to take the easy road of teaming up with her brother or even using his name for her gain.
This go round Enola’s relationship with Sherlock has made strides over the previous, showing signs of a more authentic sibling chemistry including some butting of heads. Last film he felt a bit too polished and lacked depth, feeling along for the ride for his name alone. Cavill is given more familiar Sherlock to work with here too, including a mystery of his own, while showing off a couple of the scuffs on the veneer. In comparison Enola has a lot of rough edges, quick-witted and smart while lacking much of the polish that only comes with experience. She could be accused of being over-ambitious, at times blundering her way through making her such a joy to watch.
Brown, who has delighted audiences since her breakout first season of Stranger Things continues to grow as an actress, avoiding the arrested development some child actors are condemned to endure. Enola is very much a dynamic character, allowing Brown to spread her wings as an actress taking on a growing amount of comedy, action and romance – and she nails it.
Along the way we also get treated to numerous moments of the character’s fourth wall-breaking – something which could be tiresome in the hands of a lesser actress. Instead of feeling like a gimmick, it is an invitation to be part of her adventures, her confidant, her partner in crime. These direct to the camera segments allow us to learn more about her, putting us inside her head for brief bits chock full of personality, even if we can tell she’s holding back some of the character’s truths. For me, there’s never enough of these as they often lead to the film’s biggest laughs, including a witty moment revolving around a masquerade party that had me chuckling.
Complementing Brown’s lively performance is an inventive visual style that captures some Victorian era panache, often reminiscent of Monty Python with animated photo cutouts, hand drawn sketches crudely brought to life animation filling in some of Enola’s thought process in a visual fashion. Snappy editing, and Daniel Pemberton’s bouncy score add to the buoyancy of the caper.
The core mystery is based on real-life historical events which is a nice touch, and as a whole helps keep the rhythm of the film flowing better than the previous entry. While it adds intrigue and ties together many loose ends, it is never the main draw. That goes to Enola Co. and specifically her interactions with an array of people from across social classes and backgrounds.
Joining Enola again are also her absentee, eccentric mother (Helena Bonham Carter) in a glorified cameo. She is weaved into the tale, so even when not on screen her influence on Enola is still present. Also returning are Lord Tewkesbury (Louis Partridge) whose feelings for Enola may have kindled. Back again is Adeel Akhtar as Lestrade joined by David Thewlis as police detectives tracking the same disappearance while constantly acting as the thorn in Enola’s side.
While Giles Nuttgens’ cinematography is exquisite at times it does not reach the high of the original simply because much of the story takes place inside dreary buildings. Lacking this time around the open fields and countrysides of the original. So what we get are a lot of dingier settings using a muted color grading. Which is funny because while settings are often less pleasant, there’s one thing that did not sit quite right were the actors in general. 1880s London was ridden with pollution, poverty and illness. Yet just about every actor here was attractive and healthy, from the adult clubs to the factories.
Enola Holmes 2 is at its best when it possesses the kinetic energy of one Enola’s mother’s inventions; a lively contraption set into motion, bouncing around triggering unexpected events, forcing the audience to hone in and try to keep up in anticipation of what will happen next. Clues are discovered, secrets are revealed, romances kindled, and mysteries solved all with the delightfully chipper Enola as our guide.
The series is a rare example of family entertainment that respects the full audience, challenging enough to keep all audiences engaged, both young and old. As a father who watches these films with his two daughters younger than Millie, who also look up to the actress, it is always nice to find a character who does not play down to the audience. Enola drives the story and is not a passive bystander in her own story. She brings to the screen the whip smart, tough as nails protagonist who literally does not pull her punches. Her superpowers are her ingenuity, puzzle-solving ability, and endless determination. A role model who you can stand behind as well as be entertained by.
The Enola Holmes films have both been a joy to watch. Is it a successful sequel? Let just say, cased solved. My biggest complaint is how long we will have to wait for another entry. This is the perfect franchise to turn into a series. Seriously Netflix, now that the game is afoot, surprise us with a several season announcement please.