Enola Holmes 2 (2022): lots of fun, and builds on the first film

Who liked Enola Holmes when it came out? I did. Outside of Stranger Things it was the first time we got to see Millie Bobby Brown show another side to her acting and have a bit more fun. Worlds away from the tortured character of Eleven, thank god. She also got to show us what she’s like leading a movie, albeit a Netflix movie (do they count? Am I being snobby here? Probably).

Enola Holmes (2020) was adapted from the first book in a series, The Enola Holmes Mysteries, by Nancy Springer, an American fantasy and YA author. It was directed by Harry Bradbeer (who did work on Fleabag, which explains the breaking of the fourth wall that Enola does in both films), with the screenplay for both films by Jack Thorne (who wrote His Dark Materials TV show, among other things).

The first film was fun, introducing us to Enola and her world, the teenage sister of the famous Sherlock, living in his shadow and trying to find her own path as a detective. The first movie became one of the most watched Netflix originals, so of course we’d get a sequel, with the dilemma of ‘that difficult second album’ I wondered what kind of sequel we would get. Would we go in the Paddington 2 direction (as in, arguably better than the first), or in the other direction, a watered down version of the original?

I’m happy to report we went the Paddington way, hooray. I honestly do think Enola Holmes 2 takes everything set up in the first film and builds on it, losing what didn’t work and keeping what did. And listened to audiences, who wanted more interaction and scenes between Enola and Sherlock (Henry Cavill). We get those, and they’re good. Thorne and Bradbeer were careful not to let Cavill (or indeed his character of Sherlock) overshadow scenes and moments when they’re both on screen. He has undeniable impact and gravitas, but it’s Enola’s show and story. The filmmakers struck a perfect balance.

Adding to proceedings we also have an antagonist in the form of Superintendent Grail (David Thewlis who, after appearing as John Dee in The Sandman TV show not long ago, is having quite the year). Thewlis is superb is this role, as a snarling thorn in Enola’s side, frustrating her as she races around London trying to solve a mystery involving a missing girl and a matchstick factory.

A number of actors from the first film return to reprise their roles: Helena Bonham Carter as Enola’s freedom fighting mother Eudoria is back, with much more to do this time round, which was welcome. Louis Partridge returns as Enola’s love interest, Lord Tewkesbury. In-between the first and second films I saw him again in Danny Boyle’s miniseries Pistol, about the Sex Pistols, where he played Sid Vicious, complete with the dark demons on display which led to Sid’s demise. I had to do quite the mental 180 to watch him play the well adjusted love interest here again.

As you might expect with a mystery to solve, the plot of this film is quite twisty, and turns this way and that as Enola tries to uncover systemic corruption at the heart of her original case, one which expands when she realises that both her mystery and Sherlock’s latest case are connected. I have to hand it to screenwriter Jack Thorne, he blends these stories and threads together quite effortlessly. These days, quite often with Netflix, I’m left despairing as plot points are rammed together with about as much care as a deranged troll under a bridge, smashing rocks. Here, though, I found Thorne to be quite elegant in his plotting.

I’ll leave it there, more or less. And just finish by saying this is simply put, a fun movie. Well paced, acted, and plotted. The film’s final third escalates in a most pleasing manner and had me most entertained. I’m pretty sure we’ll see an Enola Holmes 3 before long.

I give Enola Holmes 2 a solid 4/5 stars.

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