There were some reasons: the workers at the Bryant & May match factory wanted to go on strike in 1888: they were fined for minor offenses, berated for minor mistakes, and paid horribly for hours of grueling labor. But above all, their owners killed them. A change in production methods – switching from red phosphorus to white – increased the company’s profits and poisoned the workers of the match factory. The women and girls developed phosphorus necrosis, a disease that caused swollen abscesses in the mouth and fatal brain damage.
Enola Holmes, the main character of the witty and fanciful YA book series of the same name, doesn’t know all this when she agrees to a missing person case at the start of Netflix’s Enola Holmes 2. Our young detective (played by the exceptional Millie Bobby Brown) is eager to solve a mystery. Her attempts to start her own practice — economically captured in the elaborately edited opening sequence — are thwarted by ageism (“Well,” a patron says warily, “You’re young”), sexism (“Is it against the secretary?”) and the popularity of Sherlock Holmes (“Tell me, could your brother be free?”).
Enola Holmes 2
It comes down to
One too many loose threads.
When Bess (Serrana Su-Ling Bliss) walks into Enola’s office, the dejected investigator is immediately surprised and mad. The search for Sarah, a missing match factory worker, plunges Enola into a brewing labor struggle and sends her through the maze of London’s workers’ politics. Like its popular predecessor, Enola Holmes 2 anchors the protagonist in the real-life socio-political battles of her time – an approach that raises the stakes of her cases and invites viewers to develop their own detective skills. But as the second installment in what is now comfortably a franchise, Enola Holmes 2 must also lay a solid foundation for more adventures of the main character.
This extra responsibility weighs on the film, which struggles to maneuver its excess baggage. Enola isn’t just preoccupied with Sarah’s disappearance; she is also navigating burgeoning feelings for Lord Tewkesbury (Louis Partridge), trying to escape the shadow of her brother Sherlock (Henry Cavill) and patronizing interventions. Sherlock, who became Enola’s legal guardian at the end of the first film, now has to balance his own work with his brotherly duties. While Enola Holmes 2 Dedicated to our determined heroine’s perspective, it occasionally entertains Sherlock’s point of view – shifts that awkwardly split the film’s focus and create too many loose ends.
If we’re to take seriously Eudoria’s (a delightful Helena Bonham Carter) advice to Enola about detective work – the profession’s only rule is to “pull every loose thread” – then, while these wayward filaments don’t unravel the garment, they do. well. become an unnecessary distraction. And the understandable urge to cut and clean them up before the credits kick in translates into a film haunted by uneven pace.
Enola Holmes 2 initially moves with a constant buzz as Enola follows Bess to another part of London. The cobbled streets and stately Victorian-style buildings give way to muddy roads and smog factories. Enola goes undercover as a matchmaker girl, collecting early clues—a lock of hair, a burnt note, and discarded letters—that help her write the story of Sarah’s disappearance. The pieces come together with satisfying ease until Enola realizes that her case is much bigger than a missing person; it’s about corruption, corporate greed, fraud and an underground workers’ movement.
With the increased stakes, Enola reluctantly seeks Sherlock’s advice. Their loving yet tense dynamic between siblings is one of the most interesting parts of Enola Holmes 2: Brown and Cavill have a delightful on-screen dynamic that believably replicates the biting communication style typical between older and younger siblings. The two don’t know how to connect and often end up having misunderstandings or talking past each other, and it’s at those moments that we see Enola and Sherlock’s characters develop the most.
As the paths of the siblings cross more often, Enola Holmes 2 swings and swerves in directions that interrupt the steady pace. The erratic meanders only lengthen the film and unfortunately feed our impatience for the end. Harry Bradbeer is back as director, using a range of similar techniques: breaking the fourth wall, dynamic perspective shifts, the occasional explanatory animated sequence, scenes enjoying Enola’s jiu jitsu skills. There is also painstaking production and costume design by Michael Carlin and Consolata Boyle, transporting viewers to 19th-century London and highlighting the city’s growing economic inequality and contradictions. But even these touches don’t distract from the film’s most dragging parts.
Bradbeer conceived the story, based on the Nancy Springer books, with returning screenwriter Jack Thorne. The story bends its trademark humor – Enola still has a sharp tongue and is prone to ill-timed outbursts of honesty – but takes on more than it can reasonably unpack. The strike of the competition girls of 1888, a process of community building, a focused effort on we, is repackaged as a lesson in one voice leading the masses. That’s somewhat to be expected with commercial stories, but it doesn’t make it any less frustrating. Enola Holmes 2The film’s shortcomings don’t ruin the film – it’s a serviceable sequel – but the tension between the subjects the film tackles and the soft touch is one that hopefully won’t haunt future projects.
Production companies: Legendary Entertainment, PCMA Productions
Cast: Millie Bobby Brown, Henry Cavill, David Thewlis, Louis Partridge, Susan Wokoma, Adeel Akhtar, Sharon Duncan-Brewster and Helena Bonham Carter
Director: Harry Bradbeer
Screenwriters: Jack Thorne (story and screenplay by), Harry Bradbeer (story by), Nancy Springer (based on story by)
Producers: Mary Parent, Alex Garcia, Ali Mendes, Millie Bobby Brown, Robert Brown
Executive Producers: Joshua Grode, Michael Dreyer, Paige Brown, Jane Houston, Harry Bradbeer, Jack Thorne
Director of Photography: Giles Nuttgens, BSC
Production designer: Michael Carlin
Costume designer: Consolata Boyle
Editor: Adam Bosman
Composer: Daniel Pemberton
Casting Director: Orla Maxwell, CDG
Rated PG-13, 2 hours and 10 minutes