Review: Enola Holmes 2 Returns to Familiar, Endearing Characters with Less Mystery, More Social Commentary

Taking it’s core mystery from actual British history, Enola Holmes 2 brings us largely more of the same as the 2020 original that found early pandemic success, both courtesy of director Harry Bradbeer (whose greatest achievement prior to these two films was directing all of the episodes of Fleabag). Enola (Millie Bobby Brown) is still talking to the viewer; there’s a murder, a handful of mildly thrilling chases, and several drop-ins by Enola’s more successful and well-known brother, Sherlock (Henry Cavill); although weirdly, their brother Mycroft (played in the first film by Sam Claflin) is nowhere to be found this time around.

When we are re-introduced to Enola, her newly established detective agency is not fairing well and is on the verge of closing when a young woman walks in her door in desperate need of help finding her missing sister. The investigation takes Enola into the world of matchstick girls who literally spend their entire waking hours making matches and putting them into matchboxes. Other than being tedious, it seems like fairly innocuous work, but it opens up Enola’s eyes to the class divide existing in British society of the time and makes her realize that her family rests somewhere in a limbo between the upper and lower classes. With her first official case, Enola finds herself taking a job at the local match factory one day and attending a swanky ball the next, underscoring this economic divide and making Enola all the more concerned for the fate of the missing woman.

Not only does Sherlock aide her in her search, but it turns out a case he is working on seems to be tangled up in what his sister is involved with, and the two eventually work together, with able assistance from their rebellious mother (Helena Bonham Carter), her explosives expert companion Edith (Susan Wokoma), and Enola’s would-be love interest Tewkesbury (Louis Partridge). The story also brings us into contact with a particularly sinister police inspector, played by David Thewlis, and clues even lead us to believe that this case may be Sherlock’s first run-in with an adversary familiar to any reader of the Holmes books.

Perhaps getting more civic minded than one might expect, Enola Holmes 2 digs into conspiracies involving the health and well-being of the matchstick girls and how easy it is for the rich to cover their tracks with the help of those who are supposed to be policing such crimes. Other than a forwarding of her romantic status, we don’t really learn anything new about Enola to endear her to us any more than she already is; the film seems far more interested in pulling Sherlock out of his own head and finding him a new friend (again, readers of the books will see where and to whom this is leading). 

The central mystery isn’t all that compelling or perplexing; instead, it’s an excuse to maneuver through the lives of these characters and the matchstick girls’ plight, which was a real one that eventually saw some amount of safeguards put in place for them, as the film points out. The actors are certainly enjoyable enough, and things move along briskly through the film’s somewhat extended running time, but I found myself mostly lost in looking at some of the more interesting costumes or letting my eyes attempt to zero in on interesting objects in Sherlock’s dwelling. The investigation of class structure of the time is probably its most compelling element. A British filmmaker once told me that every British film is about class in some way. With Enola Holmes 2, that truth is brought to the forefront, and you don’t need a detective to figure that out.

The film is now streaming on Netflix.

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Steve Prokopy
Steve Prokopy

Steve Prokopy is chief film critic for the Chicago-based arts outlet
Third Coast Review. For nearly 20 years, he was the Chicago editor for
Ain’t It Cool News, where he contributed film reviews and
filmmaker/actor interviews under the name “Capone.” Currently, he’s a
frequent contributor at /Film (SlashFilm.com) and Backstory Magazine.
He is also the public relations director for Chicago's independently
owned Music Box Theatre, and holds the position of Vice President for
the Chicago Film Critics Association. In addition, he is a programmer
for the Chicago Critics Film Festival, which has been one of the
city's most anticipated festivals since 2013.

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