One of the unexpected, surprise hits of 2020 was the Netflix movie, Enola Holmes (see review below). Millie Bobby Brown hit a home run starring as the tween detective sister of the famous Sherlock Holmes. We finally get a follow-up movie, but will it suffer from sequelitis?
After solving a case, Enola Holmes decides to open up her own detective agency, only to find that her clientele don’t trust female teenagers (it is Victorian England, after all). She does get a break, though; Bessie (Serranna Su-Ling Bliss), a little girl working at the Lyons Match Company, needs Enola to find her missing roommate & surrogate sister, Sarah Chapman (Hannah Dodd), who also worked there. Going undercover, Enola finds shady dealings at the huge matchstick factory that employs hundreds of girls working with questionable match tips. Could Sarah have found something that she shouldn’t have?
Her investigation leads her to the Paragon Theater and dance hall where Sarah also worked and another clue, but that clue lands her in big trouble as it’s the scene of a murder! Enola is immediately suspected by evil police Superintendant Grail (David Thewlis) and the befuddled Inspector Lestrade (Adeel Akhtar). Managing to escape, she calls upon her big brother, Sherlock (Henry Cavill), for some help. It’s here that we learn that Sherlock is working on his own puzzling case that is eluding him; one of money laundering, diabolical scheming, and mathematics. Could their two cases be connected?
Continuing to search for clues, Enola crashes a fancy ball and meets up with her wanna-be boyfriend, Lord Viscount Tewkesbury (Louis Partridge). There are mysteries, red herrings, false leads, McGuffins, people getting murdered, and Enola getting saved from the gallows by her fugitive mother (Helena Bonham Carter) and martial arts instructor, Edith (Susie Wokoma), from the first movie. There’s no trace of Mycroft Holmes anywhere, but we are introduced to Sherlock’s arch-nemesis, the dastardly Moriarty (Sharon Duncan-Brewster).
In a rare and surprising event, this second screenplay by Jack Thorne (who wrote the first one) is not only better than the first but has more Sherlock/Enola interaction. Harry Bradbeer also returns with his whip-smart direction, which only adds to the overall energy. Why these Netflix movies were never a theatrical movie franchise is beyond me; they’re fun, family-friendly, entertaining, action-packed, and even have wonderful moments of romance and pathos, not to mention the mystery being solved isn’t too hard to figure out. Okay, it’s easy to figure out, like super-easy; I knew the secret by the end of the first act. And yes, it has its fair share of plot holes and deus ex machinas but don’t let that sway you from checking out this thoroughly engaging sequel.
Millie Bobby Brown, all charisma and constantly breaking the fourth wall, is such a delight to watch. She’s not spoiled or entitled in any way but a sweet, empowered, independent, and constantly learning teenager that still respects her elders, something that’s rare to find in many movies today. Really, they should make more films like this and for wide release! Cavill was born to be Holmes with his 1000-yard stare when thinking, and we needed more Bonham Carter. She’s just wonderful as the crusading women’s activist. . . with explosives. Partridge as Enola’s love interest is great and Thewlis is chilling as Grail, a super-villain if ever I saw one! Do not miss this sequel, people!! You’ll thank me.
**Now streaming exclusively on Netflix
Enola Holmes (2020)
Who knew Sherlock Holmes had a sister? I didn’t! And she looks a lot like Eleven from Stranger Things! Well, thanks to Netflix, now you do with this new movie about the Adventures of Sherlock Holmes’ Younger and Equally Smarter Sister, Enola Holmes.
Be prepared for a novelty; a family movie that’s a fun & whimsical tale for tweens with a mystery to be solved, has no bad language, and has three Harry Potter alumni thrown in for good measure! Teenager Enola Holmes (Millie Bobby Brown) narrates and breaks the fourth wall as she talks directly to you, the audience, throughout the entire movie, even asking “what would you do?” at one point! This outspoken, whirling dervish of a girl, was brought up by her fiercely independent mother, Eudoria Holmes (Helena Bonham Carter), after their father died.
Taught martial arts, archery, mathematics, chess, and tennis, Enola’s two older brothers, staunch Mycroft (Sam Claflin) and genius Sherlock (Henry Cavill) are appalled by her not being “prim and proper”, as befitting a young lady of the 1800’s. Things go south as their mum goes missing one day and, as the boys are rather lackadaisical about it, Enola finds clues to her possible disappearance and whereabouts. Armed with her passion and vibrant wit, she takes off for London but meets a runaway boy on her travels. It’s the young teen Viscount Lord Tewksbury, Marquess of Basilwhether (Louis Partridge) who takes a shine to Enola right away.
But the two must part ways as Enola is on a quest to find her mom and diversions are a distraction. Once in town, she disguises herself as a proper young lady and finds more clues to her mother’s whereabouts, including a secret martial arts studio for women run by Edith (Susie Wokoma) plus a hidden fireworks and bomb warehouse. Oh, dear! What has mommy been up to? After avoiding assassins and the law, Enola is captured by Mycroft and forced to attend Miss Harrisons School For Girls, run by the uber-proper Miss Harrison (Fiona Shaw).
But staying there isn’t going to stop this ace detective and, with the unexpected help of Lord Tewksbury, they escape for more adventures and deadly hijinks together. Based on Nancy Springer’s books, The Enola Holmes Mysteries, this movie really should be a Netflix series for kids. It has all the earmarks for wild adventures, mysteries to be solved, and a plucky girl detective who talks to you directly which makes this such a delight to watch. Plus, it has a noted history of the world’s most famous detective as her brother that helps Enola out and cares for her.
Jack Thorne knows about adapting books into series since he just did the fantastic HBO’s His Dark Materials. He didn’t screw with the premise and make it “more adult’, instead keeping it kid-friendly, which is remarkable in this day and age; having Enola be a positive role model for teenage girls. Major kudos to Thorne for that! The screenplay is simple, fresh, smart, and has a great deal of humor, especially with Enola’s many asides to the audience. And Stranger Things‘ Millie Bobby Brown nails this role with amazing ease, matching her acting against a wonderful Cavill and Carter. And her chemistry with Partridge is heart-warming and perfect.
If you’re asking why all the fourth-wall-breaking, it’s directed by Harry Bradbeer, the director of Amazon’s Fleabag, the streaming show that showcases that practice. His direction is crisp, calculating, and shows his deft hand from directing all his numerous TV shows. It’s not often you find such a rare gem in the Netflix movie library that is okay for your kids to watch, but I certainly recommend this one.