As the weather begins to plummet and Thanksgiving Break approaches, the stress induced by the mere thought of impending midterms threatens to overwhelm me. Yes, I could study, but when I saw Enola Holmes 2 was released on Oct. 27, I had to carve two hours out of my schedule to watch it.
As a sequel to 2020’s Enola Holmes, the film centers around Enola Holmes (Millie Bobby Brown), sister to the famous literary detective Sherlock Holmes (Henry Cavill). Desperate for a case, she attempts to solve the disappearance of match factory worker Sarah Chapman (Hannah Dodd) and accidentally stumbles into a messy web of conspiracy, blackmail and corruption.
I’ll admit, I’m not much of a mystery movie fan. Yes, they are addictive and yes, when done right, they can be suspenseful, thrilling and thought-provoking (notable emphasis here on “done right”). But they also tend to be incredibly formulaic, centering around an often repeated, cliché pattern of events and characters. But it is because of this that I appreciate when a mystery deviates from this script, as exemplified by Enola Holmes 2.
First, a good deal of mysteries begins with a group of people brought together under a special or unusual circumstance. Maybe they all happen to be staying at the same resort in the south of France, or perhaps they’re all houseguests or partygoers at an eclectic rich person’s home. In any case, they’re all bound together in a way they normally wouldn’t be, because usually they wouldn’t all be in the same place at the same time.
Enola Holmes 2 refuses to adhere to this trope, constantly introducing suspects throughout the first half of the movie. Because of this constant rotation of characters and faces, there is also not one inciting location or event that draws people together. The mystery of the film is a network of interlocking mysteries that Enola and Sherlock have to piece together, which is really effective and compelling.
Second, it can be easy to discern which of the characters in this group will be murdered, missing or robbed. They are either so cruel that they are obviously despised by everyone they’ve ever known or met or they’re the beacon of morality and therefore also unlikeable. In any case, it’s usually pretty clear who it is because we spend the first fifteen to twenty minutes confirming it in snippets of conversation the future victim has with the other characters.
However, at the beginning of Enola Holmes 2, we never meet Sarah, who has already disappeared. As Enola attempts to track her down, things soon become much, much more complicated as other characters begin to die. The crime that we think is committed turns out to be not what we expect, which is refreshing.
Third, the possible perpetrators tend to be cartoonish exaggerations. Maybe one of them is a rich, snobby middle-aged woman who wears fur coats and sneers at everyone under heavily lidded eyes. She will probably have secret money problems. Maybe one of them is an attractive, well-groomed and well-oiled Lothario with a drinking problem. He will probably be having some sort of love affair, maybe with the victim.
Here, I must say the mystery clichés hold fast. Rich, old men in power are — no surprise, here — corrupt, greedy and power-hungry. Similarly, the police officers are bumbling, cruel and again, corrupt. They lack three-dimensionality, but the film manages to pull it off by refocusing our attention on characters like Viscount Tewkesbury (Louis Partridge), Enola’s awkward yet endearing love interest.
Finally, many mysteries are led by a brilliant, eccentric detective who happens to also be on the scene, secretly watching and judging everyone. Over the course of the film, this quirky sleuth will solve the case, eliminating suspects one by one and exposing them for the lousy people they are until the case is solved by some insignificant detail, like the charcoal on their fingers or the wood shavings on their jacket.
To me, these tricks often come across as cheap or unsatisfying because they seem incredibly gimmicky. The fact that a character is a slob who doesn’t wash their hands is not hard evidence that they are the murderer. Enola Holmes 2 does a really good job of walking us through the conclusions Enola draws with each new nugget of information. Even if she keys in on a particular shade of lipstick or flower, we are never left wondering about the significance.
Overall, I really enjoyed this film and would definitely recommend it to anyone looking for a light mystery with fun twists and turns and some historical allusions.