“The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar” is a truly delightful short film. Adapted from Roald Dahl’s short story collection of the same title, the movie runs for only 41 minutes, yet it feels far longer on account of all the thoughtful and immersive stories told in its duration. Wes Anderson’s directorial presence is certainly felt, and many of his signature stylistic choices, such as his love of bright, solid colors and symmetry, are strongly exhibited.
To me, the most striking directorial choice was the means of narration. Every character addresses the camera directly, often narrating their actions before and while performing them. This decision illustrates the “storybook” nature of the plot, with several sequences occurring as stories within stories. As an avid reader of Dahl as a child, I feel as though Anderson’s style matches Dahl’s authorial voice in a way that previous film adaptations of his books have not replicated. So many of Dahl’s rich descriptions seem to be muted in film adaptations, but Anderson’s adaptation prioritizes the power of the narrator.
Despite the film’s primary focus on narration, the visuals, too, are undeniably stunning and unique. The scenes transition through several physical backdrops, creating a theater-like atmosphere, with workers changing the backgrounds clearly visible in the film. Every color in the film is bright and bold, yet the camera effects also give the film a somewhat fuzzy appearance. This contributes to the storybook sensation, as though the fantastical geography and locations of the film exist in the mind of a child listening as their parent reads a book.
I found myself constantly distracted, in the best way, by the unusual, unique and creative decisions made within this film. Although I could write more about the excellent performances given by Benedict Cumberbatch, Ralph Fiennes and Dev Patel in their respective roles, I’ll keep the review short with a rather simple conclusion: I earnestly recommend this short film to anyone who fondly remembers reading Dahl as a child.
Ian Odell is a sophomore majoring in international relations.
Featured image courtesy of Pexels.com.