Film Review – The Electrical Life of Louis Wain (2021)

Title – The Electrical Life of Louis Wain (2021)

Director – Will Sharpe (Black Pond) 

Cast – Benedict Cumberbatch, Claire Foy, Andrea Riseborough, Toby Jones

Plot – A biopic of eccentic English “cat” artist Louis Wain (Cumberbatch) who became one of the countries most famous Victorian era figures all the while mourning the loss of the love of his life Emily (Foy) and battling deteroitating mental health. 

“When it comes to drawing, there’s only one rule, you ever need to teach. It’s to look.”

Review by Eddie on 23/11/2022

An untypical biopic of a man that was equally unique as the film that depicts and his life’s ups and downs, director Will Sharpe (who is also known in the scene as an accomplished screenwriter and actor) star-powered drama The Electrical Life of Louis Wain came and went with little fanfare upon initial release and while there are elements too this film that are worth commending, it’s not hard to see why this well-acted but oddly cold drama failed to take flight.

Giving its main star Benedict Cumberbatch one of his most meaty roles yet in a feature film, with the committed leading man going all in to bring the eccentricities of cat artist extraordinaire Louis Wain to life, Electrical on paper appears to be a left of centre awards baiter that would appease both the art-house crowd and the critics with a difference but while Cumberbatch and the underused but typically reliable Claire Foy as Wain’s true love Emily are as good as they could be here, Sharpe’s film never strikes the right balance between oddball examination and straight up biopic, making it a curious but forgettable experience.

Starting out in a rather engaging fashion with Olivia Colman’s deft narration, Sharpe’s seemingly witty script and Arthur Sharpe’s Theremin infused score, Electrical gets things underway in a fun and fresh way but as Wain’s artistic endeavours, love life and eventual obsession with cat art takes hold the film offers up dwindling returns as the runtime wears on and while Sharpe should be appreciated for trying to do things a little different rather than taking a po-faced approach to a subject that was anything but, there’s also a feeling of distinct disappointment that this off-kilter little offering wasn’t something truly special.

There is sure to be an audience out there for Sharpe’s film, one that didn’t make itself apparent when it launched onto streaming services late in 2021 after a rather muted response at its premiere that occurred at the Toronto International Film Festival but it’s highly unlikely many will ever fall head over heels for a film that means well and explores a man that arguably lived a very interesting life or a depressingly sad one but fails to inspire much in the way of excitement or passion despite best laid plans.

Final Say –

There’s some nice moments in Will Sharpe’s film and the performances of both Benedict Cumberbatch and Claire Foy are commendable but The Electrical Life of Louis Wain fails to deliver much in the way of memorable moments, something its subject matter never had trouble with.

2 1/2 Australian rock stars out of 5

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