The Electrical Life of Louis Wain

You’re going to have to like cats

Who the hell was Louis Wain? To put it into 21st century context, you probably wouldn’t be clicking on all those funny-cat YouTube videos were it not for him. Wain (Benedict Cumberbatch) rose to prominence in the late 19th century with his playful, surreal paintings of cats. He is even credited with the novel concept of taking in the street creatures as pets. 

He was also quite mad and declining by the year. Okay, it’s not the first time Cumberbatch has played a gifted genius, but few do it so well. Director Will Sharpe’s approach to the artist’s life of mental illness, death and heartbreak is endearingly tender and hopeful. The film may seem a bit scattershot, going in too many directions at once, until you realize that that’s the perfect way to depict its subject’s troubled mind.

The superficial twee-ness hides surprising depth. The attention to Victorian period detail is masterful and the cinematography stunning. Claire Foy Toby Jones and Andrea Riseborough head up the excellent supporting cast.

Streaming on Amazon Prime now (111 min)

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