The Swan. Rupert Friend as Narrator in The Swan. Cr. Netflix ©2023

Wes Anderson’s Latest Roald Dahl Adaptation Tackles a Real-World Tale

5/5 prop corn doors.

Wes Anderson’s Roald Dahl adaptations continue on Netflix with the release of The Swan. Inspired by a true news story that was in Dahl’s “ideas” book for over 30 years, the story focuses on Peter Watson, a young boy who loves to watch birds and is kind and sweet but he is being tormented by two neighborhood boys named Raymond and Ernie. Ernie got a rifle for his birthday and wants to see what he can “kill” with it, and the darkness that follows both Ernie and Raymond serves to plague Peter at every turn.

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Rooted in a story of overcoming what the world puts against you, The Swan even includes Dahl (Ralph Fiennes) talking to us once again as he did in The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar about the importance of what this story means. He tells us that there are two kinds of people in this world, the ones who collapse after they’re driven past a certain point and then those who use these situations as a source of power for themselves—and Peter Watson is one of these people.

Starting with The French Dispatch, Rupert Friend (who plays the Narrator and an older Peter Watson) has been a staple of Anderson’s work. He fits in perfectly with that pastel world and while The Swan has a runtime of less than 18 minutes, it still has that Anderson charm in a way that is so shockingly quick that it’s a testament to how pristine Wes Anderson’s aesthetic is as a whole.

Much like The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar, the story is told to us through moving set pieces, with stage hands helping the story tellers by handing them props and opening doors. We see them weaving the story before us, and it’s a fantastical way to adapt Dahl’s work.

Surviving being tied to a train track and flying wings?

While you’re watching The Swan, it feels almost too out of the realm of possibility, which isn’t odd for Anderson’s work. He often brings the outlandish into his work to make his emotional core stand, but what really makes The Swan so fascinating and an instant rewatch is the realization at the end that this is a story inspired by true events. Kids do mean things all the time, often dangerous things to each other in the name of what they think is fun for themselves.

It is sickeningly sweet, quick, and cute in a way that just is a nice watch, especially first thing in the morning, and is another brilliant entry in the Wes Anderson world of Roald Dahl. At this point, I really do want to see a larger Dahl adaptation from Anderson, but for now, these short stories are fantastical examples of why both of these creatives are so beloved.

(featured image: Netflix)

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Rachel Leishman
Rachel Leishman (She/Her) is an Assistant Editor at the Mary Sue. She's been a writer professionally since 2016 but was always obsessed with movies and television and writing about them growing up. A lover of Spider-Man and Wanda Maximoff's biggest defender, she has interests in all things nerdy and a cat named Benjamin Wyatt the cat. If you want to talk classic rock music or all things Harrison Ford, she's your girl but her interests span far and wide. Yes, she knows she looks like Florence Pugh. She has multiple podcasts, normally has opinions on any bit of pop culture, and can tell you can actors entire filmography off the top of her head. Her work at the Mary Sue often includes Star Wars, Marvel, DC, movie reviews, and interviews.