Enola Holmes was introduced to Netflix in 2020, and she was delightfully rough around the edges. A fledgling fighter for truth and justice, some of her punches landed, others… not so much, but every time she returned with a vengeance. The first film saw her pursuing her mother (Helena Bonham Carter), who turned out to be running a secret, militant suffragette society and the hapless Viscount Tewkesbury, Marquess of Basilweather (Louis Partridge). This time, renewed in her purpose as “detective, decipherer and finder of lost souls” and determined to find her own way, her road merges with her brother, Sherlock Holmes (Henry Cavill).
This sparkling sequel takes Enola (Millie Bobby Brown) to a shadier territory as she joins a sisterhood of factory workers to find a missing matchgirl. Posters plastered over the walls remind the girls that TYPHUS KILLS and the shady goings-on behind this epidemic are subtly prescient to a recent crisis. It is this kind of historical awareness that makes good children’s stories brilliant. From the excellence of novels like Roman Mysteries or Lady Grace Mysteries that I grew up with, it is fun learning about Victorian society through this adventure. As the previous movie pointed out, Sherlock can remain avoidant of politics because it doesn’t affect him, and his celebrity status only amplifies his access to society. Enola, by the conventions of society, can not be like her brother. A fascinating development is that Sherlock’s ability just to say “don’t be ridiculous” when a policeman stops him at a crime scene only gets him so far this time, with the corruption reaching even higher than him as more prominent players are introduced. He is served a fraction of the difficulties Enola faces.
Harry Bradbeer understands how to use devices that elsewhere have grown tired, like the “mostly true story” opening title card, and once again, his signature Fleabag fourth wall breaks. I would go as far as to say that Enola Holmes 2 is Paddingtonian in the way it runs with the original’s establishment of character and carries it on with fluent and textured world-building. As Enola runs between St James’ Park to check on her now-hot-socialist beloved Lord, to infiltrating a high-society ball, to ending up in jail(?!) – this story picks up the pace with smooth exposition without slowing down or patronising the viewer.
Likewise, the elite British casting remains excellent, with David Thewlis, fresh from his villainous exploits in The Sandman, replacing the void left by Burn Gorman as a terrifying thug – except this time as a corrupt cop, not just an assassin for hire (don’t trust the institution kids!). Returning as the bumbling Lestrade, Adeel Akhtar is as amusingly lost as before while Helena Bonham Carter and Susan Wokoma are still fighting the feminist fight. And perhaps most importantly, this film asks: what do you do with a drunken Sherlock? Cavill, though still rightly secondary to Bobby Brown’s A plot, takes up his mantle as Enola’s ward and, as per every good adaptation, learns a thing or two himself. (An aside: I’m already heartbroken at The Witcher, please don’t give up the almost certain third movie, too, Henry!)
If only Jack Thorne and Harry Bradbeer had done what made Paddington 2 great and added another writer into the mix – I have the same critique as last time; a well-spoken female writer could definitely have polished the feminist aspects, so they sound a little less clunky and cliché. However, particular accusations of social justice for the sake of it in the first, with Edith’s very GIFable rant about a world made only for men, have proven unfounded. This story brings home a much more concrete, positive message about communities coming together for justice.
Enola Holmes 2 brings back old favourites but steps up the game afoot. The same fun familiar faces, sketchbook aesthetic and colourful costumes remain, with Pemberton’s jaunty and pensive scoring returning to energise every scene. The writers accelerate every fun aspect of the first: every character develops delightfully, with more female friendships to enjoy and dastardly villainy to tackle, creating an utterly joyful, entertaining watch that doesn’t let up in its fast-paced mystery.
Enola Holmes 2 is now streaming on Netflix.
by Fatima Sheriff
Fatima (she/her) is a biomedical sciences graduate and aspiring science communicator. Literary adaptations with beautiful soundtracks call to her, but she enjoys anything with an original concept, witty writing, diverse casting or even the briefest appearance of Dan Stevens. Her favourite films do fluctuate but her love for Paddington 2 is perennial. She can be found on Letterboxd @sherifff and on Twitter here.