Title: Enola Holmes 2 (Netflix – 2022)
Director: Harry Bradbeer
Writers: Jack Thorne (screenplay), Nancy Springer (book), Harry Bradbeer
Stars: Milly Bobby Brown, Henry Cavill, Helena Bonham Carter, David Thewlis
A teenage girl is chased through the dirty streets of Victorian London with two burly, corrupt police officers hot on her heels. Narrowly avoiding a horse and cart, she turns down into a dirty alley, leading to a dead end with no way out! As the police officers ready their billy clubs and handcuffs, she turns to face them, but then abruptly, she turns again, addressing us, the viewers: “Perhaps I should explain.”
Meet Enola Holmes (played by Millie Bobby Brown), younger sister to the more famous master detective Sherlock (played by Henry Cavill). After having solved her first case in Netflix’s utterly charming young adult 2020-film Enola Holmes, she is back with a sequel, this one also based on the works of author Nancy Springer.
Enola Holmes 2 picks up the story shortly after the first film. Having solved her first case, Enola decides to set up her own detective agency in London. But the cards are stacked against her because she is a girl in the strongly patriarchal British society of the late 19th century. However, she carries the name of her older, more famous brother. Is she his secretary, perhaps? Where is Sherlock? People want Sherlock!
After a brief opening where Enola is chased through the streets of London, we’re treated to a funnily animated catch-up on what’s been going on since we last met her. Her boyfriend/crush, Tewkesbury (played by Louis Partridge), is in parliament, fighting for liberty for all. And while her older brother Sherlock gets case after case after case, Enola’s detective agency is dead on arrival, as no one wants to hire a teenage girl to solve their problems. Or do they?
As her fledgling detective agency is about to close down due to a lack of customers, a young girl asks Enola to find her older sister, and the game, as she says, is afoot! This leads Enola to secrets and conspiracies surrounding the working condition for women and girls in a London matchstick factory, a case that seems to overlap with Sherlock Holmes’ activities and their mother’s shenanigans (played by Helena Bonham Carter).
From the first scene, Enola Holmes 2 struggles to find the charm and wit of its predecessor. Despite being based on historical events (The 1888 Matchgirls’ Strike), director Harry Bradbeer seems more interested in comedy, romance and playing with “the fourth wall” than actually telling a great story. Where Billy Bobby Brown shined as Enola Holmes in the first film, the saving grace this around was Henry Cavill as Sherlock Holmes and David Thewlis as the sinister Police Inspector Grail, with both actors helping to ground the film and its plot.
Enola Holmes 2 works on some levels and is serviceable if somewhat forgettable young adult entertainment. But if Netflix ever decides to go for a third film based on Nancy Springer’s young adult books, I hope they remember to pack its runtime with more actual story and less fluff.