Throughout the years, we certainly got our fair share of biopics. From “Rocketman” to “Tesla” and from “Bohemian Rhapsody” to “Mank”. Some didn’t hit all the right notes, while others scooped away some Academy Awards.
Now, director Will Sharpe (“Black Pond”, “Landscapers“) is the latest director taking on biopics as he brings the quirky and odd story of illustrator Louis Wain to the big screen. Will his “The Electrical Life of Louis Wain” be the leader of the upcoming award season or will it fail to impress? It can go either way.
Don’t worry if you’ve never heard of Louis Wain before; this biopic tells you everything you need to know. The sweet voice of Olivia Colman takes you back to 1881, where this movie starts.
The film follows the eccentric, talented, but socially awkward illustrator Louis Wain (Benedict Cumberbatch). While searching for a successful career and love, he also has to care for his five sisters and ageing mother. Sadly, that latter doesn’t go as planned as Wain is clearly unfit for the job.
Because he wants to fulfil his creative plans and wants to take care of his family, he hires the governess Emily Richardson (Claire Foy). She undoubtedly impacts the family but not only in the way you think. Yes, she teaches the family how to do household chores, study and have fun; she also shows Wain how to love and care.
Both are developing feelings for each other, and sadly, their relationship causes a great scandal (due to the different social statuses and age differences). However, the couple doesn’t care about their reputation as they’re getting their own place, adopting adorable cats (who are the perfect inspiration for Wain’s animal drawings) and making the best of their time together.
Yes, the electricity indeed hangs in the air, and for the first time in his life, Wain feels hopeful about the future. But then, sadly, the couple’s life is being turned completely upside down.
Right from the start, it’s clear that a lot of creativity, love for Wain and talent is involved in this movie. The soft voice of Colman (“The Father”, “The Favourite”) carries you throughout the wonderful and emotional story of Wain.
The dreamy voice-over beautifully fits with the breath-taking cinematography from Erik Wilson (“Paddington 2”, “Broken”). The countryside’s are coming perfectly to life thanks to the picture-book design and the pastel colours.
When the story moves to historical London, the colours become much darker, smudged, and there’s always a charcoal vibe present. Yes, the top-notch cinematography honours Wain’s gorgeous pictures in the best way possible.
Based on the fact Cumberbatch already dedicatedly and extremely accurately portrayed historical figures such as Alan Turing (“The Imitation Game”) and William Bulger (“Black Mass”), we knew what we could expect from this, and he certainly delivered it again.
Cumberbatch brings out the anxiety, torturing feelings, the pain and peculiarity of Louis Wain. You can really feel the desperation, the anger, sadness, love and every emotion in between coming out of the screen.
We can say the same thing about his co-stars. Toby Jones (“Atomic Blonde”, “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy”) perfectly portrays the warm-hearted and old-fashioned editor of The Illustrated London News, Sir William Ingram, and Claire Foy (“First Man”, “Breathe”) puts on a mesmerizing and stunning display as the loveable but also closed-off and stoic Emily Richardson-Wain.
Andrea Riseborough (“Mandy”, “Possessor”) proves with her witty, funny but serious and brutal performance why she’s one of the most versatile actresses around. We could go on like this forever because this movie is filled with A-list actors who deliver a personal, emotional and also comedic performance such as Richard Ayoade (“The Souvenir”, “The Souvenir: Part II”), Sophia Di Martino (“Sweetheart”, “Yesterday”), Taika Waititi (“Free Guy”, “Jojo Rabbit”), and even Nick Cave.
Wain had a very eccentric and busy life, and director Sharpe wants to bring all his adventures to the screen, but sadly, that becomes the biggest problem of “The Electrical Life of Louis Wain”.
While the first part is mesmerizing, captivating, and straightforward, the second half isn’t. Instead, the movie becomes unhinged that wants to tell too much. It would have been better if some elements of his life were brought to the big screen in-depth instead of all the elements on a more superficial basis.
After travelling to film festivals such as Toronto International Film Festival, Telluride Film Festival and Zurich Film Festival, “The Electrical Life of Louis Wain” is now screening at UK cinemas. While the film certainly has its fair share of flaws, it’s still a beautiful and inspiring movie, thanks to all the passion and talent in front and behind the camera.
1st January 2022
THE QUICK SELL
English artist Louis Wain rises to prominence at the end of the 19th century for his surreal cat paintings that seemed to reflect his declining sanity.