2020 saw the introduction of Enola Holmes, a more recent character with a famous last name as far as literacy goes, getting her chance to be adapted from her own novels created in 2006 by author Nancy Springer. Chances are, not many have heard of Enola prior to the pandemic however, the 2020 film of the same name made those unaware of the younger sister to the famed detective Sherlock created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle aware. Screenwriter Jack Thorne and director Harry Bradbeer took the adaptation and ran with it – appealing to a wider and much younger audience than Sherlock does while adding its own flair to stand on its own two feet.
With the sequel, aptly titled Enola Holmes 2, Bradbeer returns to the director’s seat along with co-screenwriter Jack Thorne, continuing what they started while further establishing the merit of the titular character. Whats interesting about this sequel other than seeing the return of the creative team and the main stars, Enola Holmes 2 takes its story inspiration from a true story that took place in Industrial Revolution era England. While there are several novels to adapt from, the change is a welcomed one as it fits the vibe of Enola Holmes (Millie Bobby Brown).
Fresh off her inaugural case solved, mostly on her own, Enola opens her own detective agency with the ambition of being one of the greatest detectives in Englands history. Every lead that walks into Enola’s storefront either expects her older brother Sherlock (Henry Cavill) or a more seasoned detective who isn’t a child. That is, everyone except for Bessie (Serrana Su-Ling Bliss), a young matchstick factory worker looking to hire Enola to find her missing adoptive sister Sarah Chapman (Hannah Dodd), another matchstick worker.
The advantage Enola Holmes 2 has over its predecessor deals with the fact that the exposition of Enola and her family history has already been established. Bradbeer and Thorne don’t have to waste screen time convincing us to like Enola, neither does Millie Bobby Brown who looks absolutely comfortable in the role her second time playing the titular detective. Most notably known for Stranger Things, Brown gets to showcase her comedic side, playing to the audience with snarky remarks, a fierce independence, and 4th wall breaks every few lines of dialogue. Keeping with the lighthearted tone, Bradbeer and Thorne find balance between the dense themes that are implied given the history surrounding the real life ‘Matchstick Strike’ the plot is based on and the more casual atmosphere.
Depending on how it’s taken, the balance between the two will either be the films saving grace and allow the established fanbase to become more invested in Enola or it derails the film from the beginning, citing that Enola is the sole spark that forever changed women’s rights in the workplace, rather it being a collective of women standing up for their rights. I’d say it’s the former with a considerable mix of the latter. As 2 is an overall improvement on the first film, catering to a specific story style and leaning into it headfirst with the right amount of sincerity.
For what it accomplishes, the screenplay that features a prominent role for Cavill’s Sherlock, Bradbeer and Thorne keep the focus solely on Enola. Never once does the clout of Sherlock take away from the titular character – it’s Enola’s story, Enola’s case to solve however, when Cavill is on screen, his charisma shines through, bringing his own personality to the already well-established detective. It’s an albeit neutered Sherlock before the height of his notoriety, before being partners with Dr. John Watson (Hamish Patel), before facing his arch nemesis Moriarty.
Touching upon Moriarty, Bradbeer and Thorne take an interesting yet highly effective subversive route with the famed villain. For the world of Enola Holmes, Moriarty is known as Mira Troy (Sharon Duncan-Brewster). With the little screen time that is allotted to Sharon, the actress makes the character her own, giving Mira a voice to the era and making her a relatable yet dangerous foil for Sherlock and Enola should a third film get made. Given the story, the character is able to hide in plain sight, serving as the mysterious villain that doesn’t need more time to develop. While the main villain comes by way of Superintendent Grail (David Thewlis), Mira sneaks her way up the food chain, using her intelligence and intellect to her advantage while the male characters overlook her.
Enola Holmes 2 is packed to the gills with silliness from lead Millie Bobby Browns engrossing charm. Sometimes balanced, the true message slips away due to the direction and tone director Harry Bradbeer established with the first film. Featuring a meticulous beauty in production and costume design by Consolata Boyle and Michael Carlin, 2 will be enough escapism for 129 minutes. After that, like any other of the 99% of Netflix released films, Enola Holmes 2 will be forgotten when the next film releases on the schedule. Especially with Oscar bait season in full swing. For what it is, Enola Holmes 2 proves that a sequel can improve upon the story and world building of the first, especially with a different vision for one of the most prominent characters in literature.
Screenplay By: Jack Thorne
Story By: Harry Bradbeer & Jack Thorne
Directed By: Harry Bradbeer
Music By: Daniel Pemberton
Cinematography: Giles Nuttgens
Starring: Millie Bobby Brown, Henry Cavill, Helena Bonham Carter, David Thewlis, Louis Patridge, Susie Wokoma, Sharon Duncan-Brewster, Himesh Patel
Release Date: November 4, 2022
Running Time: 2 Hours 9 Minutes
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 93%
Based On: The Enola Holmes Mysteries by Nancy Springer