Young viewers are invited into the adult world of politics and social expectations in the new Netflix original sequel, “Enola Holmes 2,” released on Oct. 27. The mystery film about the continuing adventures of Sherlock Holmes’ young sister, Enola, has reached number three in Netflix’s top 10 movies since its release date. Co-prduced by the film’s star Millie Bobby Brown and director Harry Bradbeer, “Enola Holmes 2” is politically activating, feminist and fun.
Since Enola Holmes (Millie Bobby Brown) already has detective experience from the first film, she is fighting to separate herself from the shadow of her older brother and become an independent detective of her own in the sequel. However, she has trouble gaining the trust of the middle and upper class society in Victorian-era London. Enola is unable to acquire a case until a young girl (Serrana Su-Ling Bliss) working in a local match factory asks for help regarding her missing sister. Enola becomes involved in a mystery based on the 1888 matchgirl’s strike, one of the first instances of an employee strike during the industrial era, ignited from low pay and dangerous working conditions. Working with the theme of sisterhood, Enola becomes a detective for lower class women who are often overlooked by the middle and upper classes.
Brown adds a youthful flair to the film through charismatic smiles directed at the camera, bantering dialogue and furious determination that is essential to the movie’s energy. Through sneaky asides, Brown’s personality shines on camera, while her character faces the real adult world with a lighthearted teenage innocence. For example, after finding a drunken Sherlock Holmes stumbling in the street, she brings him home, berating his messy apartment and hangovers with a sisterly mockery that is charming and dynamic.
Additional actors within the film, including Helena Bonham Carter, Louis Partridge and David Thewlis, are all engaging yet still lighthearted and fun.
The movie prides itself on its feminist, progressive outlook. It depicts young women standing up for each other and creates a clear disgust for Vicorian-era social norms. In one instanceEnola is shocked when she is expected to have a chaperone at a ball in order to talk a male character. Enola acts on modern day social norms in an old fashioned world in order to highlight the rampant gender oppression of the 19th century.
Although the movie takes on a progressive outlook, “Enola Holmes 2” is not trying to say anything that has not already been said before. The film presents feminism and political activism in a palatable form for young viewers.
While the writers’ stance on feminism is clear, the movie fails to also openly comment on racial oppression. Instead, the movie relies on casting specific minor characters to subtly reveal its opinions. At first glance the cast appears to have been chosen through colorblind casting, however, the men in power and the main characters are all played by white actors. Meanwhile, the actors of the lower class, extras and minor characters are played by actors from many different racial backgrounds. This suggests that race was a factor in casting and is being used to imply racial oppression.
Most importantly, the final villain, Mira Troy (Sharon Duncan-Brewster), has the darkest skin of any actor in the film. Her final speech is angrier than that of other female characters, seemingly suggesting that her oppression goes deeper. She is twice as gifted as Sherlock and Enola, yet must unjustly remain at the bottom. She asks, “What were my advantages? Treated like a common servant when I have twice the mind of yours… Where is my place in this society? I am a woman.”
This speech is drawn out and brimming with resentment. Surrounded by people with twice the amount of privilege as her, Mira unapologetically screams her experience at those who are about to imprison her. The word “society” is pronounced with a deep growling tone of absolute disgust, suggesting that a society that treats its citizens how she is treated is not a society at all. The speech feels as if it is itching to talk about racial oppression, but the writers avoid commenting on the full scope of the issue. Instead, Troy’s racial oppression is buried just below the surface like a secret code — recognizable for those who understand her plight, yet also easily overlooked as colorblind casting by those who don’t relate.
The writers could have addressed this racial oppression in the dialogue simply by acknowledging that the actor is Black. If the line “I am a woman,” read “I am a Black woman,” the movie could have introduced racial oppression to young viewers along with gender oppression, just by acknowledging the character dynamic that has already been created.
Sherlock Holmes is a story that has already proven to attract viewers, and it is clear this movie was made to sell. However, it seems as though a movie with feminist themes is considered something that can be easily sold, while themes of racial oppression are not. Pop culture likes supporting feminism and has deemed it appropriate for young viewers to learn about, but racial oppression is still considered too sensitive for the minds of young viewers. Because of this, racial tensions must otherwise be communicated in this story through subtle casting decisions instead of being directly addressed.
Still,“Enola Holmes 2” is worth watching. It is an enjoyable, funny, feel-good film that puts a new spin on the classic Sherlock story. However, it is important to keep in mind that this movie is a reflection of pop culture, and therefore is only reiterating the accepted opinions of the masses.
Emma McCandless is an Entertainment Intern for the fall 2022 quarter. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.