The Wonderful World of Henry Sugar: A lovely opener to the Wes Anderson quartet

3 mins read

Are short films the way to bring back the spark of Wes Anderson that has been missing in his past few cinematic pieces? Or is it the Roald Dahl source material? Either way, it’s worked in the Wonderful World of Henry Sugar.

Previously in The French Dispatch and even Asteroid City, his work had almost begun to parody himself, trying to replicate the perfect balance of films like The Grand Budapest Hotel and Fantastic Mr Fox

However, given the shorter 39-minute time frame, the style of Wes Anderson didn’t get old and the pace remained upbeat and exciting throughout to create another fantastic ode to the legendary storyteller of Roald Dahl.

Story-wise you just cannot fault him. The Wonderful World of Henry Sugar felt like a grown-up bedtime story in the best possible way. 

The 40 minute long film centred around Henry Sugar (Benedict Cumberbatch), an incredibly rich man, who heard of Imdad Khan (Ben Kingsley) who had mastered the ability to see without his eyes, documented by his physician Dr Chatterjee (Dev Patel).

He decides to master the skill for his own monetary gain in the casinos but has since discovered the meaning of life has changed for him. Richard Ayoade and Ralph Fiennes also featured, the latter as Roald himself. 

The way that Fiennes, Cumberbatch, and Kingsley spoke in prose, you could have just listened to it as an audiobook. Their delivery perfectly matched the attached but detached style of Wes Anderson’s characters mixed in with the comedy of Dahl’s magic, Cumberbatch in particular excelled here. 

The ending was a little predictable and flat but this was originally a story for teenagers so Dahl’s righteous ending does make sense. However, this might be where Anderson and Dahl’s storytelling struggle to connect.

Dahl is so character-based and although this worked well with Fantastic Mr Fox in a longer form, some of the detail of the characters could have be lost in a shorter form. The detail of sticking closely to the source material prevented this from happening in Henry Sugar but it will be interesting to see if this works with the shorter films of the quartet debuting throughout the rest of the week. 

Despite this bringing short films into the mainstream is very exciting for cinema and the combination of Wes Anderson and Roald Dahl has worked brilliantly for this. 

All the performances were brilliant with Cumberbatch, Ayoade and Kingsley giving their Wes debut, but Fiennes’ portrayal of Dahl was incredibly comforting especially situated in the famous writing hut.

For lifelong Dahl fans, bringing the shed to life was a very appreciated touch. Overall It was a lovely and nostalgic 39 minutes and is a very exciting debut of the quartet. 

Featured Image: Netflix

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Film, Media and Journalism student who writes about things that catch her interest. Instagram @charlsutcliffe

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