Netflix’s latest film Enola Holmes 2 is inspired by the Sara Chapman-led 1888 Bryant & May Matchgirls’ strike in London. Second in the series, it is better and shows how quickly British actor Millie Bobby Brown, who plays the central character as Sherlock Holmes’ sister, has grown to be an impeccable performer.
The film, directed by Harry Bradbeer, rides on the young actor’s able shoulders and is helped by a stellar cast that has Henry Cavill as Sherlock Holmes, Helena Bonham Carter as Eudora, and Louis Partridge as Lord Tewkesbury. Moriarty (Sarah Duncan-Brewster), the villain in the film, is a refreshing character too.
The film series is based on American author Nancy Springer’s novels that present an alternate history of 19th-century London.
Picking up from where Enola Holmes (2020) ended, the film starts off with Enola opening her own detective agency. But she falls victim to gender and age prejudice, and no one takes her seriously. Adding to that is the shadow of her famous sibling. Soon, a young girl called Bessie (Serranna Su-Ling Bliss), who works in a match factory, turns up in Enola’s office to ask for help finding her sister Sara (Hannah Dodd). And the “game is afoot” as Enola says. Sara has been accused of blackmail and theft. There are others on the lookout for her too, including Inspector Grail (David Thewlis), a dubious character.
The case gets intertwined with one of Sherlock’s financial scam investigations. What happens when the two masterminds come together forms the crux of the plot.
The irreverent treatment
While BBC series Sherlock (2010), which reimagined Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s iconic character and starred Benedict Cumberbatch, failed in the last season, Enola Holmes 2 manages to impress. Witty women challenge patriarchal authority at every step, and that makes for an enjoyable ride.
The immaculate Victorian-era sets, ballroom scenes, action scenes, and even the grim reality of factory workers are shown brilliantly.
The film never shies away from taking a strong political stance, much like Eudora who has a crucial role in pushing the plot forward. From women’s to labour rights, the film’s alternate view of the Holmesian universe is a treat for cinephiles.
For those who love a good political thriller, Enola Holmes 2 ticks all boxes — it talks about racial diversity and female solidarity movements too. And it’s not mere tokenism. Women take the lead and employ whatever little power and wits they have and push for change.
Enola also manages to break the fourth wall, and that’s a nod to UK actress Phoebe Waller-Bridge playing Fleabag in the 2016 series of the same name, Brown recently told Variety in an interview. The tension and suspense are palpable, keeping you on the edge throughout.
While Cavill may not seem like the first choice for portraying Holmes, he actually comes out really well — his action scenes and fistfights are a delight to look at. The brother-sister detective duo looks great on screen. Louis Tewkesbury reprises the element of non-toxic masculinity, which Eddie Redmayne’s Newt in Fantastic Beasts series also focussed on. Tewkesbury never takes away the focus from Enola and instead complements her performance. Helena Bonham Carter is her usual best — encouraging Enola in her quest for independence.
The climax may feel predictable, but that does not diminish the pleasure of Enola Holmes 2 in any way. Let’s just say that this Moriarty is a new kind of danger who will probably find more opportunities to play with both Sherlock and Enola.
(Edited by Humra Laeeq)