Bryant’s review published on Letterboxd:
I think I’m watching these Anderson/Dahl shorts in slightly the wrong order, but that’s okay. As such I will refrain from speculating on progression of narrative styles and limit myself to the seventeen minutes at hand.
Which are starkly minimalist. Frame story: check, along with the pull back to Ralph Fiennes as Dahl to layer in another frame in the closing minutes. This time the main frame is intensely abstract, with Rupert Friend almost just reading the story to us. The visual accompaniment is minimal to the nth degree, with the two antagonists never appearing as characters. At a couple of points, the omnipresent stage hands fill in to represent the pair. That’s it.
What’s going on here is that the narrator is telling a story about something that affected him deeply as a child. The visual form of that story is abstracted because he can’t look at it too closely. Indeed, that climatic scene is clearly what he wished had happened, at least until he can’t deny the reality.
The train scene is the other point at which Friend can’t keep himself separate from the past. It’s also Anderson at his best, focusing in tight on Friend for an agonizing few minutes, making the already tight frame positively claustrophobic.
Finally, there’s even more playfulness with the narrative form throughout. The fourth wall breaks down once, and I think this is the first time I’ve caught the actors giving clear instructions to the stagehands. Amazing work; I’m sad I’m about to finish the series up but I’m stoked to watch all four again.