Home The Electrical Life Of Louis Wain (Parent And Baby Screening)

The Electrical Life Of Louis Wain (Parent And Baby Screening) (12A)

Cast: Benedict Cumberbatch, Andrea Riseborough, Taika Waititi, Claire Foy, Toby Jones
Genre: Drama
Author(s): Will Sharpe, Simon Stephenson
Director: Will Sharpe
Release Date: 01/01/2022
Running Time: 111mins
Country: UK
Year: 2021

In Victorian London, illustrator Louis Wain becomes the man of the house and has to provide for his widowed mother and five sisters Caroline, Claire, Felicie, Josephine and Marie. He hires a governess Emily Richardson and love blossoms with Louis, slowly bringing him out of his shell. Louis' pictures of cute cats catches the eye of newspaper editor Sir William Ingram and changes the public's perception of the animals forever.


LondonNet Film Review
The Electrical Life Of Louis Wain (12A)

During a tender exchange in director Will Sharpe’s biographical drama about the impoverished artist who altered Victorian England’s perceptions of the humble cat, the titular creative is lovingly likened to a prism through which beams of light refract. It’s a delightful description of the joy that radiated from the work of a social misfit, who was plagued by crippling bouts of depression and would probably be diagnosed on the autistic spectrum today. Sadly, the same light does not emanate from The Electrical Life Of Louis Wain…

Sharpe’s wilfully offbeat portrait of conflicted artistic genius lacks clear narrative focus and hastily sketches supporting characters but neglects to colour them in. A script co-written by Simon Stephenson and Sharpe provides Benedict Cumberbatch with an eye-catching central role and he confidently surfs the crashing waves of Wain’s inner turmoil including a heart-breaking breakfast scene that speaks volumes without having to say a word. Pleasing on-screen chemistry with Claire Foy, tested to breaking point by that most reliable dramatic device (terminal illness), papers over some of the cracks but with a running time close to two hours, Sharpe’s picture outlives our patience and good will. Olivia Colman’s pithy narration scene steals from a venerable supporting cast including Andrea Riseborough, Hayley Squires and Toby Jones trapped within this cinematic painting by numbers.

In 1881, socially awkward illustrator Louis Wain (Cumberbatch) funeral marches alongside his mother (Phoebe Nicholls) and five sisters, Caroline (Riseborough), Marie (Squires), Josephine (Sharon Rooney), Claire (Aimee Lou Wood) and Felicie (Stacy Martin). Their father’s death shifts the household’s financial burden squarely onto Louis’ narrow shoulders. “As the oldest and malest of the Wain siblings, it had unfortunately become his responsibility,” explains Colman’s droll narrator. Louis secures fitful employment with the Illustrated London News edited by Sir William Ingram (Jones) and hires young governess Emily Richardson (Foy) to further his sisters’ education.

Love blossoms between the reluctant master of the house and Emily, risking a scandal fuelled by one nosy neighbour described as “the blabberiest mouth this side of the River Thames”. They marry and soon after, Emily is diagnosed with breast cancer. “I’m the one who’s ill, Louis. Don’t you start wallowing in it too,” Emily orders her terrified spouse and he begins to draw a stray cat, which they christen Peter. Louis’ pictures of anthropomorphised moggies shift the public’s perception of the animals from simple mouse-catchers to cherished companions.

The Electrical Life Of Louis Wain is hamstrung by the script’s faulty wiring, despite solid work from Cumberbatch and Foy. Colourful cameos by Nick Cave as HG Wells and Taika Waititi as American newspaper editor Max Kase pique our curiosity but we all know what killed the cat. Poor Peter.

– Sarah Lee


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