By Liz Lopez
Benedict Cumberbatch produced the film and stars as Louis Wain, a late 19th and early 20th century English illustrator in the new Amazon Studios film “The Electrical Life of Louis Wain.” I honestly did not really know what to expect when I quickly read a brief synopsis of the film about a man, a cat and electricity. I was never more pleasantly surprised by the story said to be based on true events at the start of the film. I honestly did not research deeply into this artist who the audience learns about in the film that covers his life moving from the late 1800s through to the 1930s. This was most helpful for me and for anyone else interested in learning about his life as an artist and all he went through.
The film is directed by Will Sharpe (Black Pond, The Darkest Universe) based on the script co-written with Simon Stephenson (Luca) who is also an Executive Producer. It is narrated by Olivia Colman who provides information about what was happening in England during this period, and the scientific work using electricity for lighting and machinery. Louis Wain had an entirely different belief about electricity and how it worked in our lives. There are many things that happened to Louis Wain since birth, childhood, education and later his career. Benedict Cumberbatch does an outstanding job of portraying all the mannerisms, quirks, anxieties, and you name it that was unique to this individual. I anticipate that he will be nominated for his performance from a young man to an elder in the excellent make-up and hair design. His performance made me feel just about every emotion possible. I cried again today.
He loved using his artistic abilities, but as the oldest child of six in the family (and only male), he had external pressures to become the head of household as a young adult to provide for his widowed mother and five sisters. None of them worked outside the home to help keep the family housed and fed. Despite his success at different points in his career, his artist mind was sharper than his business mind leading to failing to pursue better business practices. He was not the best at managing money, so the family stayed in debt.
The sisters hired a governess, Emily Richardson (Claire Foy) and first he objected, thinking he could do all the teaching and related duties, but he quickly changed his mind when he saw her. They developed a very sweet romance once they decided they could care less what the neighbors and society said about it. They were happy and their household was peaceful (as opposed to when living with his sisters). They find a stray cat, keep him, and name him Peter. Although cats were not considered household pets at the time, it was a great source of comfort, especially as Emily became very ill. Her love of Peter and what she told Louis she thought of cats inspired him in his artistic work as he drew with both hands.
After Louis has the loss of his wife, cat, extensive work in transit for sale and one sister becomes severely mentally ill, his oldest sister is concerned for him and results in living in mental hospitals.
Additional cast: Andrea Riseborough, Toby Jones, Sharon Rooney, Aimee Lou Wood, Taika Waititi
Rated: PG-13 and 111 minutes. It is available on Amazon Prime on November 5th.