Enola Holmes 2 review: detecting done nicely

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Enola Holmes 2 sees Millie Bobby Brown return to deduce her way through Victorian London – here’s our review.

What’s the best way to show detectives detecting on screen? There’s the classic method, of course, as one grumpy old man explains the facts of a case to a clueless assistant. BBC’s Sherlock was made famous by its fondness for mind palaces, pitching its protagonist in a maelstrom of spinning symbols and quick zooms to crucial bits of evidence. Then there’s the Christie-flavoured staple, lots of scathing interviews with witnesses followed by an impromptu lecture in a library.

Enola Holmes 2, just like the first film, tries a bit of everything. Flashbacks to life advice from Enola’s mum, charming police sketches of the crime in progress, flashbacks to moments from the first film, flashbacks to moments in this film… Actually there’s a lot of flashbacks going on.

But this kitchen-sink approach to mystery writing is probably what best sums up Enola Holmes 2. It throws a lot at the wall—romance, class conflict, some more Sherlock-Enola bonding, the odd frenetic fight sequence and a real-world historical subplot—and in truth most of it sticks. The sheer volume of material means it does feel a little bloated by the end of its 129-minute runtime, and the result isn’t quite as focused as its charming prequel, but the plucky young detective’s second outing is still a perfectly satisfying and entertaining romp from beginning to end.

We open near-enough immediately after the events of the first film. Enola (Millie Bobby Brown)’s new detective agency is struggling to escape from under the shadow of her older brother, who finds himself vexed by a new case. Enola’s pal Tewkesbury (Louis Partridge) now fights for reform in the House of Lords, while her mother (Helena Bonham-Carter, sadly largely absent for this one) does the same with the odd post box-bomb in the street. And when a young girl from the match factory turns up with a missing person to find, Enola Holmes gets right on the case.

It is a lot to fit in, and to the film’s credit the script (penned by the busiest writer in showbusiness, Jack Thorne) does a fine job of tying all the loose threads together by the end. The plot does have a few too many rug-pulls scattered throughout though, so the conclusion doesn’t quite have the ‘aha!’ moment of the best mystery stories, but there’s enough humour and fun little word puzzles along the way that the action never gets dull.

It’s helpful, of course, that Millie Bobby Brown, who also produces the film, is there to drag the movie along by its Victorian coattails. The first film was reportedly a real passion-project of hers, and in the second she ramps up the considerable charm she already displayed in her last outing. Her heroine is wonderfully expressive, and a huge amount of credit for the film has to go to her lead performance. The only downside is that Henry Cavill, returning as Enola’s slightly more famous older brother, seems a bit dull by comparison, though that Bobby-Brown’s star power manages to outshine Superman himself is surely something to go right at the top of her CV.

There’re a few more rusty parts in Enola Holmes 2— the Fleabag-ian looks to camera still don’t entirely work, though they are a bit more seamless than first time round, and the generous use of clips straight from the first film does smell slightly of a studio unsure if the audience will remember the last outing. The action scenes also feel a little rushed, though the set-ups are often simple enough that the slightly manic editing can never significantly obscure what’s going on.

Besides all that, on the whole Enola Holmes 2 does what you’d expect. Millie Bobby Brown continues to run on excellent form, and watching her run, jump and deduce her way around Victorian London is just as entertaining as ever. Fans of the first film will find more of the same, and plenty to like, here, and the central message, particularly for young girls, is a welcome addition to what is otherwise some fairly harmless fun.

Enola Holmes 2 is available on Netflix now.

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