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The Electrical Life of Louis Wain

The Electrical Life of Louis Wain

Benedict Cumberbatch is electric in Will Sharpe’s tumultuous portrayal of an extraordinary cat lover, backed up by a stellar cast.

The director of the acclaimed Flowers and Giri / Haji television series, Will Sharpe has a penchant for dark subjects with a comedic twist. His latest feature film, The Electric Life of Louis Wain, is in the same vein since it traces the life of the eponymous character (Benedict Cumberbatch), an “outsider” artist whose main study is cats. The biopic form takes on a playful and colorful eccentricity, reflecting the personality and kaleidoscopic worldview of its protagonist.

Born in 1860, suffering from a cleft lip and latent schizophrenia, Wain became the breadwinner after the death of his father. He is suddenly responsible for five single sisters and an invalid mother. But his vivid imagination and frantic impulses to create art – rather than find a job – mean he can’t meet the expectations of his family, especially his frustrated older sister Caroline (Andrea Riseborough).

Wain’s surreal, technicalized view of the world contrasts with the black-and-white restrictions of a rigid Victorian society, a view that shows a lack of compassion towards those who transgress social norms. Wain and his family are ostracized in a world of gossip-loving talkers, and it is against this hostile backdrop that Wain’s love for cats grows. He identifies with stray animals, which at that time were not domesticated pets, but considered vermin.

The Electrical Life Of Louis Wain - Light Home News

Fortunately, Wain’s talent for lightning-fast drawing caught the attention of Sir William Ingram (Toby Jones), editor of the Illustrated London News, who offered him a job as an illustrator. Yet every time Wain takes a step forward in life, his psychological distress (his mind is a “storm-howling hurricane”) thwarts his family and work relationships. When he marries the penniless, cat-loving housekeeper Emily Richardson (Claire Foy), who in real life was ten years her senior, it causes a scandal among the locals.

At the heart of the film is a love story between Wain and Emily, a story that turns into a story of heartbreak when Emily is diagnosed with terminal cancer. The cats serve as a metaphor, accentuating his estrangement from the world and recalling memories of his wife and their beloved cat Peter.

But it’s the film’s adoption of too many themes – cats with the potential of electricity – that hinders the story. Despite the strong performances of Cumberbatch and Foy, the intricate weaving of symbolic strands seems artificial; they hold each other loosely by a precarious thread.

The movie is enjoyable in large part because of the solid cast and unexpected star cameos, including a famous god of rock (hint: with an Australian accent) playing HG Wells. But the power of human history is weakened by excess sentimentality, which Arthur Sharpe’s score does not help.

Cat lovers will likely find something to cling to here, but the film may not convince everyone that Wain was an exceptionally important artist, let alone the fact that it is an ideal use for the talents of Sharpe. It is nonetheless a touching human story, celebrating an unrecognized outlier.

Reference of the Article-post – lwlies