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Wes Anderson’s First Oscar Winner Just Got Transformed Into a Netflix Anthology Film

Finally, four of last year's best short films have been packaged together.

Benedict Cumberbatch and Ben Kingsley in 'The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar'
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A lot has been written about how streaming services like Netflix have hurt Hollywood. Between the damaging, industrywide reduction in residuals caused by it, to how it has further pulled some viewers away from movie theaters, the streaming boom has had many consequences both intended and not. However, one of the good things that Netflix’s takeover of Hollywood has done is encourage filmmakers to experiment with their output and form in ways they might not have otherwise.

See, for instance, director Wes Anderson's The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar. After releasing one of the best movies of 2023 in Asteroid City, the filmmaker unveiled not just one but four short films on Netflix near the tail end of last year. The first, mentioned above, is an adaptation of the Roald Dahl story of the same name and went on to win the Oscar this year for Best Live-Action Short. In addition to The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar, Anderson also released three more short-form Dahl adaptations: The Swan, The Rat Catcher, and Poison, all of which run around 17 minutes long.

Now, several months after their initial debut, Netflix has rereleased all four short films as one 88-minute anthology movie, titled The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar and Three More. Netflix and Anderson have, in other words, just given those viewers who haven't already watched them the perfect excuse to check out four of the best pieces of media that debuted last year. If you're one of those viewers, here's why you should ASAP.

The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar, The Swan, The Rat Catcher, and Poison all tell decidedly different tales. One focuses on a man who learns how to see through barriers with X-ray-like vision, another on one young boy's traumatic encounter with a pair of brutal bullies. Poison, meanwhile, depicts two men’s efforts to save another who has been forced to lay still for hours because a poisonous snake has fallen asleep on his stomach. The Ratcatcher, conversely, is simply a portraiture of its titular character, who is too much like his prey to fit in with his fellow humans.

Despite their different plots, these shorts all feature the same revolving cast of actors, which includes Rupert Friend, Ralph Fiennes, Benedict Cumberbatch, Dev Patel, Richard Ayoade, and Ben Kingsley, and they're presented in the same theatrical fashion. That is to say that they each utilize sets with walls that can be moved according to Anderson's whims and old-school practical effects like boxes that are painted to make the actors sitting on them look like they're floating. They even look like they all were filmed on the same soundstage.

This is by Anderson's own design. The filmmaker has long been interested in proving that obvious construction does not have to get in the way of genuine emotion. His plots have grown increasingly convoluted over the years and his visual style all the more ornate, intricate, and in-your-face. In 2023, he hit a new creative high with Asteroid City, a film that flaunts the artificiality of its story and then hits you with waves of emotion anyway. None of the shorts in The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar and Three More are quite as effective as that film, but they achieve a similar effect.

From the rushed way that their actors deliver word-accurate line readings of passages from Dahl's original stories straight to camera or how their sets move and reorganize right in front of our eyes, Anderson’s Netflix shorts lean all the way into their shared theatrical nature. Rather than needlessly distract you, these details only further pull you under Anderson's spell. His latest batch of Dahl adaptations are fantastical and whimsical, and yet based in shockingly dark human emotions. The purposefully ostentatious manner in which they're constructed, therefore, manages to both charm you and further ground them in the level of reality necessary for their stories to land with the right amount of weight.

Rupert Friend narrates and leads The Swan, which is just as worthy of your time as the other three short films that Wes Anderson released in 2023.


Unlike Asteroid City and many of Anderson's other films, the shorts contained within The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar and Three More are refreshingly straightforward. They neither conceal their true themes beneath nesting doll layers of reality nor abandon the monotonous, mile-a-minute way his dialogue has long been spoken. They're rapid-fire, shotgun blasts of pure whimsy, comedy, horror, heartbreak, and beauty. You can watch all four shorts in less time than two episodes of most TV shows demand nowadays, and they just further cement Anderson as one of the world's greatest and most distinct artistic voices.

That's a bit ironic, given how closely the shorts stick to Dahl's original texts, but such is their magic. They're four strikingly faithful adaptations that could have only been made by one filmmaker.

The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar and Three More is streaming now on Netflix.

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