When a film owns its genre of choice, it can be a wildly exciting time. When the first Enola Holmes film was released in 2020, the fourth-wall-breaking comedy became a surprise hit. For Millie Bobby Brown, it proved a liferaft outside of the Stranger Things universe. Not only did she get to showcase legitimate comedic chops, but the romantic subtext also opened the door for future romantic comedies. Most importantly, Brown proved to hold her own against other stars, including Henry Cavill and Helena Bonham Carter. The sequel, aptly titled Enola Holmes 2, builds on Brown’s star power as it expands the world. As Brown builds out her own enjoyable franchise with the help of Cavill, it’s clear that the pop-infused period comedy will showcase its confident tone.
Set in the aftermath of the last film, Enola Holmes 2 puts its titular character back at the center of an investigation. Enola (Brown) receives a request to find a missing girl from her flatmate and must go undercover in a matchgirl factory. However, when she stumbles into a murder scene, Enola becomes the primary suspect. With the help of her famed brother (Cavill) and Tewkesbury (Louis Patridge), she begins to unravel a much larger conspiracy. Simultaneously, a notorious foe of Sherlock’s begins to encroach on their world.
The tones of Enola Holmes continue to be its strongest asset. While self-referential humor and direct-to-camera asides have become commonplace, the 19th-century setting helps this device stand out. Additionally, it allows us to get inside the mind of Enola as she walks the audience through her investigations. It is a rare case of showing the work that benefits the narrative. Additionally, the asides are never world-breaking. The humor feels topical to the story instead of infusing Enola Holmes with modern pop culture. This commitment helps sell the style.
For Brown, she continues to showcase her unique talent set. Placing her against other charismatic performers, and allowing her to continue owning the sequences, helps solidify her star power. She’s game to embrace the unique aspects of the genre that seep into the story’s corners, from romance to comedy to action. It’s genuinely an all-encompassing role that few actors ever get. These films may not reinvent the wheel. Still, Brown’s performance helps elevate the material and highlights the filmmaking on display. These would be legitimately fun and successful theatrical comedies if Netflix pushed them to the multiplex.
The surrounding cast around Brown seems game to play as well. Cavill’s Holmes remains one of the most enjoyable characters in the actor’s career. He brings enough of his goofiness to the story while never wavering as a believable sleuth. Bonham Carter returns for limited screen time but puts her fingerprints all over the story in short order. It must be nice to have one of the most decorated performers of her generation step into a role she’s wildly overqualified for. As a result, she lights up the scoreboard while in the game.
The addition of David Thewlis allows those unaware of his bonafides as a Hall of Fame creeper to see him in all his glory. Thewlis never takes off a shot, and while we try to figure out his role in the story, he dramatically increases the tension. Susana Wokoma and Sharon Duncan-Brewster feel underutilized but should see their role expanded in future installments. Finally, Adeel Akhtar perfectly captures the humor of his role but never lets his character in on the jokes about his ineptitude. Akhtar’s inclusion in each film has helped raise the value of the side characters because, in lesser hands, this character might fade into the background. Instead, he makes the sequences incredibly fun.
Additionally, credit should go to director Harry Bradbeer. The Emmy-winning director of Fleabag clearly applied the unique aesthetics of Phoebe Waller-Bridge to Brown but adjusts the camera to feel more at home with the actress and the 19th-century setting. His camera helps world-building aspects that give Enola Holmes 2 a much stronger sense of realism than other recent Holmes films. Each element, including the production design and costume departments, gets an opportunity to showcase its craft. The only aspect that still lags is an insistence to stretch the film to over two hours. There’s enough fat on the story to carve it back rather than have us walk in circles as part of the mystery. One imagines a slightly tauter, 2-hour version of the story might also increase the central tensions.
Few would mistake Enola Holmes as a secret masterpiece, but half the battle is creating genuinely enjoyable stories. In that regard, Enola Holmes 2 succeeds. With locked-in performances from its lead actress and a fun array of supporting performers, the Netflix franchise continues to thrive. Those who enjoy the first film will undoubtedly be on board for more of the same. Newcomers should keep an open mind because there’s little doubt that we’ll see Enola again soon.