A film review by Craig J. Koban November 13, 2022


2022, PG-13, 129 mins.

Millie Bobby Brown as Enola Holmes  /  Henry Cavill as Sherlock Holmes  /  Louis Partridge as Lord Tewkesbury  /  Helena Bonham-Carter as Eudoria Holmes  /  David Thewlis as Superintendent Grail Susan Wokoma as Edith  /  Adeel Akhtar as Lestrade

Directed by Harry Bradbeer  /  Written by Jack Thorne, based on the book series by Nancy Springer




It would be deceptively easy to dismiss the first ENOLA HOLMES and its new sequel as just sassy and inconsequential young adult themed Nancy Drew-ian mystery yarns (and they are certainly that, to a small degree).  But they also put a viewfinder on the gender and class norms of Victorian England and how vast and unhealthy inequities existed within them.  

I enjoyed the first Netflix produced ENOLA HOLMES romp, mostly because it had a clever spin on classic Sherlock Holmes mythology (what if Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's master detective had a younger sister that also had a penchant for sleuthing?) and even more so for the effervescent presence of Millie Bobby Brown, who crafted an unendingly likeable and spirited protagonist that desired to step outside of her more famous brother's large shadow and do things on her own accord.  ENOLA HOLMES 2 coasts by on the strengths of its predecessor, but this time it doesn't have to focus on expositional origin particulars and instead can thrust its plucky hero right into the thick of things.  I'm not entirely sure if it's better than ENOLA HOLMES 1, but this follow-up is definitely a solid equal to it. 

In the franchise introductory entry (and this will be a long running franchise, you can bank on it) we first met Enola as a very inexperienced detective that tried to investigate the disappearance of her fiercely independent minded and determined mother (Helena Bonham Carter) and, for the most part, we got to see Sherlock's sibling learn on the fly, with many of the good laughs coming at the expense of her greenhorn status and age.  Even though the era that she resides in doesn't think too kindly of the ladies in terms of being on equal stature to men, Enola nevertheless persevered in her valiant attempts to makes a name for herself and gain some much needed respect from her skeptical older brother.  As ENOLA HOLMES 2 (by the way, kind of a bland title, if you ask me) opens we see the slightly older, but not quite an adult heroine still trying to be a detective while being given a new case to solve (no case, no movie), but now she has taken her goals that much further by starting her own detective agency.  After opening it she begins to realize that she faces a massive uphill battle in terms of prospective new clients taking her seriously.  Most of the people that walk through her doors either think she's some sort of secretary or is crazy or - more insultingly - ask if her if a man like Sherlock (Henry Cavill, perhaps the most cut Sherlock of all) is available.  Ouch.  Enola is on good terms with her brother, to be sure, but his titanic stature in the field makes it awfully hard for her to score willing clients. 

Obviously, that changes when she's approached by Bessie (Serrana Sul-Ling Bliss), a girl not quite her own age that's looking for her sister, Sarah.  Deciding that the best way to score some clues is by going undercover in the very match factory that Bessie and her sister worked at, Enola takes to the case with a great zeal, but soon realizes the horribly bad working conditions of the factory and the treatment of the women there.  She also discovers that foul play and a lot of shady dealings are most assuredly occurring there.  Things get more dire when someone that has close ties with Sarah has been murdered, which means that Enola has to pick up the pieces of that tragedy and move bravely forward.  Complicating things for her is the re-appearance of Tewkesbury (Louis Partridge), a hunky young lad that Enola is crushing on hard that has now become a somewhat prominent politician.  Enola tries to reach out to Sherlock for help, but he's so wrapped up in his own lack of success with cracking a case that he's starting to have self-doubt.  Then there's Superintendent Grail (a perfectly cast David Thewis), who's pretty mean spirited towards any of Enola's attempts to get in the way of official law enforcement getting their work done.  It seems that poor Enola has few allies to speak of in this sequel and overcoming obstacles large and varied are even more prominent this time for this kid detective. 



The feminist leanings of ENOLA HOLMES 1 and 2 are clear cut enough, but she strives to do more than simply show that she can exist with any man in a shared field and be worthy in it.  She has to not only work with her brother while attempting to carve out of work niche for herself apart from him, but she also yearns for independence and to prove her many doubters wrong.  Brown - also serving as producer here - remains the film's wide eyed, somewhat naive, but wildly ambitious minded and headstrong protagonist that can often give as good as she takes (both mentally and physically).  Much like before, Enola frequently breaks the fourth wall with many asides, and with any other young actress these would have grown staler by the minute, but Brown continues to impart such limitless charm in the role that they become awfully hard to criticize.  Her youthful exuberance often got her into trouble in the last film; she's a bit more mature and well rounded now, but she still has to deal with her own share of setbacks and roadblocks that stymie her way to victory.  She's also given a lot more screen time with Cavill's Sherlock, who's more of a substantial supporting player this time than an extended cameo before.  Sherlock figures into the story in more sizeable and organic ways in ENOLA HOLMES 2, but not to the point where he hijacks the film away from his younger co-star.  Sherlock has been better played by better actors in the past, yes, but Cavill makes the iconic role his own by also playing into the added dimension of him trying to navigate a relationship with a sister that feels overwhelmed by his very existence.   

There also seems to be far more focus on the mystery elements of ENOLA HOLMES 2 with less reliance on action (that's not to say that this film is void of the latter, mind you, but that director Harry Bradbeer seems more interested in the cerebral mind games that occur between various forces on both sides of the law).  Another thing that positively stands out is how this sequel has a noble minded melding of fact and fiction in the ways that writer Jack Horne makes use of the reality based 1888 Matchgirls' Strike that sets off Enola's new mystery adventure in the first place.  ENOLA HOLMES 2 has the same level of inviting warmth and humor as its antecedent, but it's also not afraid - like many good sequels - to dig deeper and darker with the inherent material and mythology.  Enola has a tough mystery to crack, but she also has to do so while being placed front and center in the horrendously punishing working conditions of the factory while also being exposed to the debilitating illnesses that are plaguing many of the workers that are not getting medical attention.  I liked the whole angle that a young impoverished girl hires Enola as well, which adds a whole other layer of capitalism run amok in the narrative, where the nefarious haves maintain an unnerving grip on the have nots.  Enola comes from an upper class background, so helping her destitute client and seeing how the other half of society suffers is an eye opening experience for her as a hero of the piece, especially for how the film dissects themes of class inequity alongside women's suffrage.  Thankfully, it also doesn't do so to the point of feeling patently forced and obvious.  ENOLA HOLMES respects its main hero and allows for her to grow and change on multiple levels. 

There are some things that mournfully hold this sequel back from elevating itself far above the last film.  Firstly, the central romance subplot between Tewkesbury and Enola - although sweetly handled - seems more distracting now than before, and mostly because it minimizes the larger and more important themes at play in the piece.  ENOLA HOLMES 2 should have had enough confidence to understand that the trivialities of social hookups with boys pale in comparison to what Enola is wading through in her current mission (I chalk all of this up to what the makers here think the core audience wants in obligatory YA fiction, which I think is a misstep on their end).  Also, this film is a tad too bloated and long at 130 minutes, with many scenes and sequences feeling like padded filler.  And by the time the film builds towards its climax of shocking reveals, multiple twists, changing allegiances, and so on I found myself becoming less enthralled in how the film sought closure.  Still, ENOLA HOLMES 2 remains a solid addition to this series and does what good sequels should do by taking these established characters and their relationships, building upon what worked before and expands upon them in novel new ways.  And it's fun to catch back up with Enola and her family, and Brown is so wonderful in the role and makes every scene she occupies so jubilantly engaging.  ENOLA HOLMES 2 is a serviceable sequel that goes down well and entertainingly enough as a diversion on any night, but it also peppers its story with a fact based incident that gives it more relatable dramatic weight.   And the central message of the film is kind of inspiring for young female viewers: You can be an independent minded pursuer of societal change and learn the value of working with others in the process.  

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