Based on the Nancy Springer series, the new film Enola Holmes sees its teenage heroine on the verge of a full-fledged career in revelations like her more famous sibling. Enola Holmes (Millie Bobby Brown) has opened an investigative agency, but finds it difficult to either take it seriously or climb out of the shadow of Sherlock Holmes (Henry Cavill).
Could it be entirely the fault of skeptical clients who object not only to Enola’s gender, but also to her apparent youth? Yet Enola doesn’t imagine herself as a gentleman detective, yet she manages brilliant performances supported by her inquisitiveness, courage and Holmesian dictum “don’t be emotional”.
The films, like the young adult fiction on which they are based, offer an alternative history of nineteenth-century England. From inventing a new image for Sherlock Holmes to conjuring up the Holmesian matriarch—the anarchist Eudora (Helena Bonham-Carter)—the series cleverly reframes detective work as a quest for women’s empowerment, racial justice, and morally just policymaking. In this realm, it is a badge of honor for women to be described as troublesome, as Eudora is so fond of reminding Enola.
Enola Holmes 2 was inspired by the real-life labor movement led by Sarah Chapman in 1888. If Eudora’s disappearance in the first film sparked Enola’s adventure, the new film similarly revolves around the disappearance.
Enola’s first case is handed to her by a girl who barely reaches her waist. Cute Bessie (Serranna Su-Ling Bliss) lives in the dirtier parts of London and works in a match factory. Bessie’s older sister Sarah (Hannah Dodd), who also works at the factory, is not only missing, but also accused of theft and blackmail.
It’s game on for Sherlock as well, as he pursues a financial scam that hints at the work of a mathematical mastermind. The delightfully named Viscount Tewkesbury (Louis Partridge) reappears to remind Enola that gummies need human company too. While it doesn’t take a genius to figure out where the plot is going, director Harry Bradbeer and writer Jack Thorne cook up a nice confection, both oversaturated and nicely flavored.
The sequel works hard to build momentum as Enola tosses back and forth, using animation and visual effects to connect scenes. There are memories of moments that happened not so long ago. Even Enola’s direct-to-camera addresses are of higher quality. Unlike Sherlock, which treats Enola with the respect of an adult, the film isn’t always sure of its audience’s ability to follow the plot.