Enola Holmes 2 Review: A Charming Mystery Outing Better Than The First Movie

The original "Enola Holmes," directed by "Fleabag" helmer Harry Bradbeer and based on Nancy Springer's book series "The Enola Holmes Mysteries," burst onto the scene with surprising aplomb. Following Enola Holmes (an excellent Millie Bobbie Brown), the brilliant and rebelliously independent teen sister of Sherlock (Henry Cavill) and Mycroft (Sam Claflin), the first film sees young Enola working to find Holmes matriarch Eudoria (Helena Bonham Carter) and discovering that a bigger mystery is afoot. The freshman mystery adaptation was smartly written and charming with a wonderful performance by star and producer Millie Bobbie Brown. With the groundwork laid for a strong second outing, "Enola Holmes 2" had a number of legs up on its forebear outing alongside relevantly higher stakes. 

It's an interesting emerging franchise for dominant streamer Netflix. With the first film originally set for a theatrical release before its acquisition by Netflix, "Enola Holmes 2" confirms that the success of the original is not a fluke: the streamer has something great under its belt. With this and a better-than-ever Benoit Blanc soon gracing our screens in "Glass Onion," there are lessons aplenty to be had from the fact that some of the streamer's best original movies happen to be charm-fest mysteries premiering in November 2022. Netflix, take note: we need a solo Sherlock outing and a Eudoria and Edith "Thelma & Louise" movie, and we need it yesterday.

In this outing, a more seasoned Enola has to navigate building her own detective legacy out from under her brother's shadow, while still learning to balance independence against a need for allies, connection, and romance. Oh yeah, and there's intrigue and murder and social upheaval, too. "Enola Holmes 2" is not without some missed opportunities, but Brown remains excellent as the title character behind a script that's perhaps sharper and more tightly structured than its successful first entry. Adept mystery plotting, engaging twists and turns, charming dialogue, and strong character work together to land a successful and enjoyable sequel. "Enola Holmes 2" works well enough that we should start asking why there aren't more of these movies, and why we can't see them in theaters.

Holmes Alone 2: Lost in Old York

"Enola Holmes 2" begins with an entrepreneurial Enola having started her own detective agency since the events of the first film. Her skill notwithstanding, Enola still has to contend with the discriminatory oddities of her day and clients are hard to come by. When a young "matchstick girl" arrives in search of her missing friend Sarah Chapman, Enola is happy to take on the case despite the lack of financial compensation. As Enola begins to investigate the shady undercurrents that run beneath the area's rich and powerful, Sherlock pursues a surprisingly connected elusive case that unknowingly brings him to his greatest criminal rival.

It's hard to say more without spoiling a number of the film's mysteries (there are twists, turns, and complications aplenty), but it's a well-scripted affair that runs along at a breezy pace. A movie like this typically only works with properly teased details, and "Enola Holmes 2" is joyfully layered with enough clues and cues to make the intricacies of the mystery land. The script (written by Jack Thorne) also takes the wise choice of centering the real-life Matchgirls' Strike of 1888, in which Sarah Chapman played a pivotal role. It's smart to center the narrative in the era's real-world struggles, and as the plot progresses Sarah Chapman's fictional counterpart even gets some of the finale's finer hero moments. The choice to allow Enola to share the spotlight with real-world heroes in her own mystery outing is an appropriately bold narrative move. It works.

There are also a number of action sequences that contribute to the film's overall fresh, modern mystery energies. Lensed by Giles Nuttgens ("Hell or High Water"), the foot chases and combat through elaborate set-pieces genuinely look good. At the same time, while the overall editing sets a strong and ably developed pace, some of the combat sequences (including a particularly important one in the finale) are slightly awkwardly cut and harder to visually follow than they should be. Nonetheless, it's an ably crafted narrative with strong technical elements and a genuinely solid script.

Rollin' with the Holm-ies

Millie Bobbie Brown continues to shine in the role of Enola Holmes, here perhaps more impertinent than the original, with a slightly stronger propensity to break the fourth wall. The character stands out from Sherlock's shadow, as Enola's detective work isn't a heady exercise in over-abundant logic: Enola is more empathetic, more human, and less coldly rational than Sherlock. She wants relationships and connections more than Sherlock often shows. It all adds welcome complexity and cheekiness that makes the protagonist feel unique, but in a way that should still land for fans of her famed literary brother.

The supporting players all hold their own, with Cavill similarly excelling as a vexed and humanized Sherlock. The pair have a strong rapport, and their uniquely written personalities allow for some enjoyable exchanges when the narrative brings their investigative efforts together. Helena Bonham Carter is always enjoyable as Eudoria, nailing that tenuous balance between manic fugitive and dysfunctional, loving mother that the character needs. The biggest issue here, indeed one of the largest issues with an otherwise stellar film, is that these excellent performances are variably underutilized and sometimes haphazardly incorporated.

This is Enola's story, and Brown nails the character, and the story is overall better off for the focus. We do see a decent bit of Cavill's excellent Sherlock here and there, but it could be more substantially and thoughtfully interwoven into the narrative–and why not, when the pair have such good on-screen chemistry? And Eudoria's fingerprints are so represented in the skills and emotional baggage of her brilliant children that it's a shame we see so little of her on-screen. Yes, yes, she's on the lam, but every brief moment she's on the screen is a reminder of what's missing. 

The end result is that some excellent performers and performances get subtly shortchanged, and inserted into the script in ways that, at times, feel like an afterthought. With the ultimate lesson of much of the film being "it's nice to have family, friends, and allies," here's to hoping for a more integrated "Enola Holmes 3," and a spin-off movie or two. At the same time, between strong character work, adept mystery writing, amusingly tongue-in-cheek fourth-wall breaks which broadly work, and swift action sequences, "Enola Holmes 2" is by and large a welcome and engaging mystery experience.

/Film review: 8 out of 10

"Enola Holmes 2" premieres on Netflix on November 4, 2022.