From Ancient Egypt to TikTok, cats have accompanied humans on life’s journey. But who is responsible for making these creatures eternally cute? The Electrical Life of Louis Wain tells the story of the Victorian-era artist whose widely published drawings of cats transformed them from mysterious to irresistible.
Louis Wain brims with creativity, even as his life in the 1880s oscillates between the delightful and the dizzying. To support his widowed mother and five younger sisters, the academy-trained artist sells drawings of animals from the country fair. His skilled and speedy portraiture impresses, but his stormy view of the world (and those in it) keeps him from engaging much with society. Until he hires a kind, curious governess, Emily Richardson (Claire Foy), who illuminates his life in a way even he’d never imagined. Love blooms across the class divide much to the chagrin of Louis’s stern and second oldest sister Caroline (Andrea Riseborough).
Writer-director Will Sharpe uses dynamic visual technique and colorfully shifting mood to convey Louis’ complicated mind, fickle wealth, momentous love, and consuming grief. Cumberbatch’s transcendent performance stands at the centre of an impressive cast that includes Toby Jones and Adeel Akhtar.
Sharpe utilized very compelling cinematic techniques from rainbow-esque water color images to silent film tropes for the flashbacks focusing on Wain’s childhood. Glares of glass rolling across the lens in kaleidoscope colors, landscapes slowly shifting into a live action paintings and the beautifully twisted stairwell shots collectively make this film intriguing and gorgeously captures the inner life of Louis Wain and the vivd imagination that lurked within.
Benedict Cumberbatch (Louis Wain), in a dazzling performance, is simply a revelation while inhabiting all the quirks and idiosyncrasies of a man whose love of cats made him an unsung legend. Claire Foy is deliciously delicate as his better half painfully reminding all of us that you can run away from your family, but you can’t run away from your grief. It trails you like a shadow. As Emily, she challenged the status quo gossip mongers by following her heart spend some of the most engaging years of her life with her one true love.
Last, but certainly not least, let me give a much deserved shout out and praise hands to Makeup and Hair Designer Donald McInnes for his brilliant and beautiful design. It’s some of the most realistic I have ever seen on screen. While not a fan of cats (due to intense allergies), I can appreciate the excellent conduit of electricity and creativity these beloved four legged friends have provided allowing generations to enjoy Wain’s artistry for decades.