The Electrical Life of Louis Wain

The Electrical Life of Louis Wain

In Theatres: 
Oct 22, 2021
Running Time: 
111 minutes

You may not be familiar with the name Louis Wain, but you’ve likely seen his work before. Working as an artist in London during the 1860’s, Wain popularized cats, drawing them with big cartoonish eyes and anthropomorphic features. The Electrical Life of Louis Wain is just as the title suggests; electrical. Centered around an unbridled performance from Benedict Cumberbatch, the film delivers a charming look into the life of the artist. 

Louis Wain (Cumberbatch) is an extremely talented freelance artist, but he’s also not like other people and doesn’t always act the way others in society expect of him. Nonetheless, he’s managed to find work drawing for various publications. He even manages to find love through his sister’s governess, Emily Richardson (Claire Foy). Yet nightmares and tragic events seem to also plague Wain’s life. Behind all the paintings of happy and playful cats, there’s a tortured soul looking for peace.

I’ll admit that I had no idea who Louis Wain was before watching the film, and The Electrical Life of Louis Wain does a good job at hitting all the beats needed for a decent biographical drama and period piece. Benedict Cumberbatch puts on a performance and looks like he’s having fun in the role as he gets to play with the character and all his eccentricities. At the same time, he can pull your heart from your chest when he’s exploring the darker side of the character. The film covers all your bases.

The film does seem to gloss over the more controversial elements of Louis Wain’s life, specifically whether or not he was schizophrenic. The film somewhat hints at that possibility, but it overall tends to focus on the jovial aspects of his life. As far as biographical dramas go, The Electrical Life of Louis Wain plays it safe by taking the middle road. While it’s enjoyable to watch Wain turn cats from just a tool used to hunt mice in homes to the pets we know today using just the stroke of his paintbrush, there’s so much more to the artist waiting to be explored. Cumberbatches performance is electric enough but a better script surely could have produced bigger sparks. 

Matt Rodriguez
Review by Matt Rodriguez
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