Early on in Netflix’s Enola Holmes 2, a sequel to 2020’s breakout Nancy Springer adaptation, the eponymous hero has to carry big brother Sherlock home. World’s greatest detective? Greatest drunk, more like, and it doesn’t take a sleuth to get the point. Though teamwork – sibling and otherwise – is a theme, fear not: Millie Bobby Brown’s Enola remains the anchor for a flawed but fun and ambitious sequel, lit up by her quick, droll lead.
With confidence flaunted upfront, the game is swiftly afoot as we find Enola hurtling along backstreets, bobbies in pursuit. How did she get here? Flashbacks recount Enola’s difficulties starting a detective agency in the late 19th century. She’s considered too young, too… female. But when a girl asks Enola to locate her missing sister, who worked at a match factory, Enola uncovers corruption from shop floors to theatres and balls, with brawls, smoke bombs, stabbings, red herrings, and rooftop escapes navigated en route.
Striking up a lively chemistry with Henry Cavill’s well-used and appealingly measured Sherlock, Brown’s sly lead steers the story. Breaking fourth walls merrily, she makes light, self-mocking work of Enola’s learning curves. Dancing, fighting, working with siblings, grappling with feelings: whatever challenges come, she’s a match for them.
Returning director Harry Bradbeer handles a clash of tones equally well, juggling animated interludes and high-speed chases with staring-at-maps detective work and darker twists. But the murky and rapidly cut fight sequences are less convincing, especially during the finale, and a busy character stage drains Helena Bonham Carter’s cameos and the wan Enola/Tewkesbury (Louis Partridge) bond of impact. Jack Thorne’s script sometimes struggles to deceive, too: one hidden-in-too-plain-sight secret might as well be stood behind a pillar with its feet stuck out, shouting "Look at me!"
Other twists prove more satisfying, touching on themes of class, feminism, and workplace toxicity. As Bradbeer balances the playful and political, a sense of surface theatricality benefits from grubbier views of Victorian London. Daniel Pemberton’s typically nimble score handles the tonal swerves nicely, while Adeel Akhtar, Susan Wokoma, and David Thewlis add casting class in support roles. With a rousing climax and some threequel seeds worked in, the result is an amiably all-ages mystery movie with a dark streak and a worthwhile message, made worthy of its winning lead. "And that," as Enola might say, "is a job well done."
Enola Holmes 2 reaches Netflix on November 4. For more, be sure to order the Enola Holmes 2 issue of Total Film (opens in new tab) featuring our deep dive into the making of the movie with Millie Bobby Brown, Henry Cavill, and more.