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edge staff writer


‘Enola Holmes 2’ a sleuthing sequel that satisfies

November 7, 2022
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It’s always nice to be surprised by a movie.

Take 2020’s Netflix offering “Enola Holmes.” Based on the first in a series of YA novels by Nancy Springer, the film follows the titular girl – sister to the famed detective Sherlock Holmes – as she finds herself embroiled in a mystery she herself must solve. I went in expecting something passable, and instead was served a charming and wholesome cinematic treat. And I wasn’t alone in feeling that way – the film was well-received by critics and audiences alike.

So of course we were going to get a sequel.

“Enola Holmes 2” sees Millie Bobbie Brown return as the titular girl detective. Harry Bradbeer is back to direct, while Jack Thorne has returned to write the screenplay (though it should be noted that this new film is not a direct adaptation of any of the Springer novels). And while out heroine is a little older and a little wiser, the sense of fun that marked the pervious installment is still very much present.

Mixed in with that fun, however, is a nod to some of the very real circumstances of the time and place in which the film takes place. Now, this is a fairly glossy treatment of the bleakness endured by the lower socioeconomic classes in late 19th century London, but it does draw on real events as the core of the story it tells. A story told rather successfully, I might add.

Enola Holmes (Millie Bobbie Brown) has moved to the city and is trying to open her own detective agency. She quickly realizes, however, that the social norms aren’t necessarily conducive to her starting her own business. She struggles to make it work, but things aren’t looking great.

Then, she’s enlisted by a young girl named Bessie (Serrana Su-Ling Bliss) to help track down her older sister Sarah. It seems that Sarah has disappeared and Bessie suspects foul play; Enola decides to investigate. Sarah and many of the other girls work at the local match factory, each pulling long hard shifts for mere pennies a day even as many of their friends succumb to an ongoing typhus outbreak. One of Sarah and Bessie’s coworkers and roommates Mae (Abbie Hern) is suspicious of the situation and of Enola’s motives and seeks to push Enola out of the picture.

Meanwhile, Enola’s brother Sherlock (Henry Cavill) is in the middle of a case of his own, investigating a far-ranging financial crime that not only carries economic repercussions, but might well be a deliberate effort to play games with him.

Enola’s efforts lead her in all manner of directions, as it soon becomes clear that there’s a lot going on beneath the surface of Sarah’s disappearance. She keeps pulling at the loose threads, even as those threads lead her higher and higher into the social strata, putting her in the orbit of wealthy businessmen like Henry Lyon (David Westhead) and his son William (Gabriel Tierney), as well as government officials like Treasury Minister Lord McIntyre (Tim McMullan) and his right-hand woman Mira Troy (Sharon Duncan-Brewster). Oh, and her old pal (and secret crush) Lord Tewkesbury (Louis Partridge) is around as well, as awkward and well-meaning as ever.

But as the web grows more complex, Enola finds herself in real danger; she’s in the crosshairs of Police Superintendent Grail (David Thewlis), who believes her to be more deeply involved in the case than she lets on. Plus, it seems that there may be some connection between her case and that of her brother’s, which only makes things more complicated, personally and professionally.

In the end, it’s up to Enola to help lend a voice to all of the forgotten girls who have been left behind by the constant, crushing momentum of forward progress.

“Enola Holmes 2” is a legitimately strong follow-up to a film that was plenty good in its own right, injecting the right amounts of playfulness and pathos into the proceedings. The fourth-wall-breaking conceit – venturing into the realm of overdone these days – still works marvelously here, largely because the filmmakers are judicious in its usage. We get some winks to the camera, but not too many. Just enough to capture that playful spirit.

There’s a lovely sense of adventure to this movie that makes it a pleasant watch. It’s easy to imagine younger viewers – particularly girls – being swept up by it all, even if there are a few moments that might prove a tough intense for very young viewers. We who grew up on the ostensible kiddie fare of the 1980s might scoff, but still.

The introduction of real historical elements is an interesting choice – I won’t spoil anything, but it won’t take you long to figure out the significance of the match factory if you’re curious – and one that ultimately pays off. It grounds the film in a way that still allows room for silliness even as we occasionally veer into more serious territory. Bradbeer and Thorne do admirable work in striking that balance.

Brown is a very gifted young performer who is very clearly having a blast making these movies. She brings a buoyancy to the screen that is wonderful to watch, ping-ponging and pinwheeling through the story with a sparkle in her eye and a spring in her step. In her hands, Enola is both brilliant and fallible, incredibly gifted yet still subject to the same sorts of foibles that befall almost all young people her age. She holds the screen with a presence that belies her limited years.

Henry Cavill is a fantastic Sherlock Holmes, particularly when he awkwardly dons the mantle of older brother. His energy is similar to previous portrayers of the master detective, yet also imbued with something different – a fragility and warmth born of family ties. Partridge remains charmingly befuddled as Tewkesbury. Thewlis is wonderful as the officious and smug Grail, while Adeel Akhtar continues to give us one of the more charming takes on the character of Lestrade. Oh, and Helena Bonham Carter is back as Enola and Sherlock’s mom; she only shows up occasionally, but she’s throwing heat every time.

“Enola Holmes 2” is a relative rarity these days – a sequel that lives up to the promise of the original. If you’ve been trying to find a fun adventure film appropriate for audiences young and old, well – I think we can mark that case closed.

[4 out of 5]

Last modified on Monday, 07 November 2022 16:05

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