Henry Sugar (Benedict Cumberbatch) was a man born rich, who did little with it. Not a bad man, but not a good one either, Henry spent most of his days largely bored, with little to drive him. Then, one day, Henry discovers a book that tells the tale of a man who could see without using his eyes, and his life changes forever. Now his story is told in The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar, written and directed by Wes Anderson and based on the book by Roald Dahl.
Sometimes, a unique approach can go a long way, when it’s not so much what you say, but how you say it—and when the presentation manages to pull a viewer in, through the power of curiosity and intrigue. This is the approach that The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar takes towards its presentation. And thanks to its short 39-minute run time, it keeps the viewer interested right up until the very end.
You’re most pulled in by The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar’s setting and how it addresses the audience throughout its story. Much like a stage performance, this film shifts the locations around its characters, moving walls and backdrops to make way for new locations to appear. Sometimes scene changes are done with intricate elements locking together, other times, far simpler tricks are utilized, but either way, the flow of the scenery around the cast is always mesmerizing and enjoyable. It actively aids the flow of the story in a way I have never seen before. The designs of many of the sets also bear a slight, artistic styling to them that helps them pop. Looking sleeker than what one would expect, these locations help bring some added color and flair to the film’s narrative.
This shifting setting is also aided by how the film delivers its narrative. Each section of the story is delivered through the narration of an onscreen character who provides the point of view for that stretch of the story. Whether it’s the author Dahl (Ralph Fiennes), Mr. Sugar, or Imdad Khan (Ben Kingsley), the man who can see without using his eyes, the chosen narrator rarely breaks eye contact with the camera, holding the audience’s attention as they deliver the ongoing narrative. This draws your eye away from the shifting scenery, making the transformations even smoother, as many elements shift and change while only being half-noticed by the viewer.
Delivered in a clipped and factual narrative style, The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar works largely through the curiosity it lays out. As it introduces characters and delivers stories within the story, the viewer is left spellbound as they wonder where it is all going. Once again, the short runtime works in its favor, as the spell would break if it tried to maintain its power any longer than it does. As it stands, the constant shift of characters and locales keeps the somewhat dry story moving far smoother than a more conventional approach could’ve achieved.
Taken all together, The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar crafts a truly unique experience that is well worth investing the 39 minutes it takes to watch. How it weaves its narrative along through its ever-changing scenery, and the skill the various actors show in delivering this story, is an experience I cannot recommend enough.
The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar is streaming now on Netflix.
The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar
The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar crafts a truly unique experience that is well worth investing the 39 minutes it takes to watch.