Director: Harry Bradbeer
Writer: Jack Thorne
Cast: Millie Bobby Brown, Henry Cavill, David Thewlis
When the first Enola Holmes (2020) came out, it felt as though director Harry Bradbeer was trying his best to turn Sherlock Holmes’s kid sister into a Victorian Fleabag (Bradbeer directed 11 episodes of Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s landmark show). Instead of the mulish and serious-minded teen who is the star of Nancy Springer’s Enola Holmes books, the first film introduced us to a wisecracking young woman who keeps breaking the fourth wall and getting into improbable scrapes. Comparisons to the book on which the film is based were inevitable and even though Millie Bobby Brown proved her star credentials as Enola, the film felt awkward and uneven. It didn’t help that Henry Cavill — as the hunkiest possible avatar of Sherlock — made only a cameo appearance. In Enola Holmes 2, the mistakes of the first film are rectified. The script is tighter. The action is more clever. There’s only a passing resemblance to Springer’s novels and Bradbeer’s Enola, powered by Brown’s radiant performance, comes into her own. Also, there’s a lot more Cavill, who shares a delightful sibling-flavoured dynamic with Brown.
Determined to establish herself as an independent working woman, Enola has set up a detective agency — only to find no one wants to hire a young woman. She’s just about ready to pack up when a little girl shows up and asks for Enola’s help to find her missing sister, Sarah Chapman. Looking for Sarah, she starts working in a match factory, finds herself in a sleazy theatre, gets framed for murder and escapes the police by scampering on the rooftops of London. It’s all mostly unrealistic, but entertaining enough to watch thanks to Brown who is as good at packing a punch as she is at delivering punchlines. Additionally, Enola Holmes 2 has gorgeous art direction and production design, which come together to create a fictional, Victorian-era London that deliberately looks like a painting while still feeling lived-in.
Along the way, Enola’s paths cross with Sherlock, who is investigating a case of corruption. The two mysteries seem unrelated, but it turns out they are connected. Bradbeer, who has co-written the story of Enola Holmes 2 with screenplay writer Jack Thorne, brings Enola and Sherlock’s cases together elegantly and there are some delightful surprises tucked into the film. Helena Bonham Carter as the suffragette Eudoria Holmes, with her homemade bombs, is one of them. Perhaps the best surprise of Enola Holmes 2 comes halfway into the film, when Sherlock realises he’s being played by a mysterious rival. As fun as the Holmes siblings are to watch, the most interesting parts of Enola Holmes 2 feature Sarah Chapman, who is a historical character and led the first ever industrial action taken by women for women.
From illustrations to animated moments, snappily-choreographed action scenes and zippy repartée, Enola Holmes 2 is a fun, light-hearted and well-plotted watch. The pacy script touches upon issues like feminism and class disparity, but lightly. This is a film that seeks to entertain rather than educate even though it is clearly socially aware, given its colour-blind casting, quote-worthy dialogues, and the kind of women characters the film privileges.
While Brown remains the star of Enola Holmes 2, Cavill’s Sherlock has a lot more to do this time round. In Springer’s books, Sherlock is a shadowy presence at the fringes of Enola’s life, but Bradbeer and Thorne bring him into the spotlight and make him Enola’s partner. This serves Enola Holmes 2 well. Cavill is, as always, easy on the eye and his smooth-talking Sherlock makes the film a lot more entertaining despite having little in common (beyond a Baker Street residence) with the angular detective that Arthur Conan Doyle created. However, it does feel mildly disappointing that Enola Holmes 2 needs Sherlock to liven up her story. That the post-credit scene features Sherlock and not Enola feels like a portent that Sherlock might encroach further into Enola’s space within this fictional universe and that would be a shame. Not only is Enola a fantastic character and perspective through which to view women’s experiences, Brown is a wonderful actor who deserves this leading role.