TV/Film Reviews

Film Review: ‘The Electrical Life of Louis Wain’ (dir. Will Sharpe) | TIFF 2021

The quirkiness is dialed up to ten, and it’s all the better for it. That just makes the sadness at the center of it all feel all the more whimsical.

The Electrical Life of Louis Wain stars Benedict Cumberbatch as Louis Wain and tells the story of the Victorian-era artist known for his mysterious cat drawings and one-of-a-kind persona. Claire Foy stars as Emily Richardson, Wain’s sister’s governess who he ends up sharing a relationship with that teaches him about himself. Andrea Riseborough, one of acting’s greatest chameleons, appears as Louis’ sister Caroline. Olivia Colman is the narrator, and her lovely voice is responsible for talking us through this story filled with shifting visuals and impressive performances.

It’s odd and interesting but simultaneously affectionate and eccentric. The story itself is pretty sad, but it draws upon the genius of Louis Wain through his creative madness and mental health.

Opening with a slide that says simply, “This is a true story,” The Electrical Life of Louis Wain makes for brilliant British period piece brimming with a peculiar sense of humor that is perfectly timed.

The quirkiness is dialed up to ten, and it’s all the better for it. That just makes the sadness at the center of it all feel all the more whimsical.

Louis Wain was an eccentric man, so director Will Sharpe had to ensure that he had an eccentric man to take on the role. Benedict Cumberbatch was the perfect guy to call. Cumberbatch can truly do no wrong. He has successfully conquered film genres across the board, and I think you would be hard tasked to find a character he wouldn’t do justice.

While the film focuses on Cumberbatch’s Louis Wain, Claire Foy is just as incredible at embodying her character as Emily Richardson. Two perfectly matched cat people, these two were the perfect pair for this biopic. 

Benedict Cumberbatch and Claire Foy’s chemistry is beyond electric, and the scenes they share feel so fun and cute and awkward.

Also, when they make a biopic about me (lol), please for the love of God ask Olivia Colman to narrate it. For that matter, let’s just have her narrate everybody’s biopics and documentaries from here on out. Her voice is quite literally the guiding voice of this biopic, and it’s truly fitting.

Are there points in this where everything feels a little bit ridiculous? Heck yeah. But is the fact this bends the rules of how a biopic should look also a big part of what made this thoroughly entertaining? Heck yeah.

I loved the 4:3 aspect ratio. It felt especially relevant given the Victorian era that was being portrayed on screen, and it added another level of eccentricity that was on par with the rest of the film.

There is also this cute little cat that will win anybody over. Feline fans will be instantly drawn to this film, and they’ll also be a big fan of Louis Wain himself. 

This was filled with some really bold creative choices, and even when they didn’t necessarily hit the way they were meant to, at least it was something interesting. Throwing in an exciting element that don’t feel so tried-and-true goes a long way. It was risky to go as experimental as they did with this considering it’s a period piece, and I’m not saying it’s flawless, but it kept me invested in the story and the theatrics of it all. 

The Electrical Life of Louis Wain played during the Toronto International Film Festival this year. Amazon Studios is set to release the film theatrically on October 22 and on Prime Video on November 5.


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