Poison (2023) Review

Poison (2023) Review

Poison (2023) Review: About

Directed by – Wes Anderson
Screenplay by – Wes Anderson
Based on – Poison by Roald Dahl
Cinematography by – Robert Yeoman
Edited by – Andrew Weisblum & Barney Pilling
Production/Distribution Companies – Indian Paintbrush, American Empirical Picture & Netflix
Starring – Dev Patel, Benedict Cumberbatch, Ralph Fiennes & Ben Kingsley
Rating – Australia: PG

Title: Poison: A Fusion of Roald Dahl and Wes Anderson


For fans of the two masters of their own trades, getting to see the trademark eeriness of Roald Dahl’s symbolism-infused short stories mingle with Wes Anderson’s auteurist approach would be nothing short of a dream come true. Netflix’s acquisition of the rights to the celebrated author’s collection of stories only brought that very dream strikingly close to materializing.

Synopsis of “Poison”

Spoilers Ahead

The result? Four of Dahl’s obscure stories get to fit into the signature Wes mold and are reshaped to take up the form that complements the director’s vision.

The Setting: Dahl’s Story in Anderson’s World

Harry’s Dreadful Dilemma

Harry Pope cries snake in Poison, In the dollhouse-like structure that the director deems a fitting home for something vile, the stakes shift at an odd moment, and the threat shapeshifts to take on a human form. Benedict Cumberbatch, the ferocious racist bound to his bed by an imaginary fear, grows more appalling with every passing second.

The Convergence of Styles

Anderson’s Surrealism Meets Dahl’s Bleak Themes

With Wes’ unapologetic style that invariably overshadows every element of every story only to paint each frame with a dreamscape-ish quality, Dahl’s tale gets that extra dosage of surrealism that elevates the pervasive spookiness. Concluding the carnival that started with The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar, what Poison treats us to is the very antithesis of a happy ending.

Ralph Fiennes as Dahl: A Meta Twist

Fiennes’ Meta Role

Here, Ralph Fiennes’ fourth-wall-breaking representation of Dahl himself has a grander purpose to serve. Challenging his own subtlety of dialogue, where cryptic sarcasm can easily be mistaken for awkward candor, Wes shrewdly utilizes Fiennes’ Dahl as a means to nudge the audience in the right direction.

Poison (2023) Review

The Plot Unfolds

Harry’s Paranoia Unfurls

Supervisor Woods (Dev Patel) is rather cautious about his car’s headlight waking up the formidable man he lives within the pastel bungalow in British-governed India. The light being on surely means that Harry Pope (Benedict Cumberbatch) is up, right? But the man Woods comes in to find frozen in his bed hasn’t been up for a peaceful late-night read.

The Climax: Confrontation with the Snake

Battle of Wits and Fears

A battle of rageful looks ensues between the doctor and the man being crushed under the fear of a little snake. Woods can only hope that the effects of the chloroform go beyond nauseating the people in the room.

A Wes Anderson Ending

An Unsettling Conclusion

You never really go into a Wes Anderson film expecting a world that matches the one you know. You hardly even expect the characters to bear the closest resemblance to real people. Yet, the aura that Wes’ characters exude is not exactly what you’d call the uncanny valley effect. It is more of a fantastical reimagination of people in houses and landscapes that are faithful to the auteur’s perception of the world he wants to create.

Reflection on Themes and Characters

Privilege, Abuse, and Racism

From the very first frame, the tone of Harry’s formidable authority in the bungalow is set by Woods’ trembling attempts at doing everything he can to appease him. Harry’s as cruel as they come.

The Inescapable Reality

Harry Pope: Beyond Redemption

The fictitious snake that the petrified characters had been trying to get away from could never be as venomous as the one that lay on the bed, unmoving, soaked in more foul hatred than sweat.


The atrocious racial insults that are shot out of Harry’s nasty mouth are, unfortunately, only a rather downplayed representation of what an Indian doctor would’ve been subjected to in India under British rule. It is, however, the only time Woods is bold enough to scream at the top of his lungs to put a stop to his sickening attacks.


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