Friday, December 31, 2021

The Electrical Life of Louis Wain

Movie Name:
The Electrical Life of Louis Wain
Year of Release: 2021
Director: Will Sharpe
Starring: Benedict Cumberbatch, Claire Foy, Andrea Riseborough, Toby Jones, Phoebe Nicholls, Stacy Martin, Sharon Rooney, Aimee Lou Wood, Hayley Squires, Adeel Akhtar, Asim Chaudhry, Taika Waititi, Crystal Clarke, Nick Cave, Julian Barratt, Dorothy Atkinson, Olivia Colman
Genre: Drama
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 5
Watch it on Amazon

Synopsis and Review:
Director Will Sharpe is back, following his work on the show "Flowers" and his previous feature film, the little seen "The Darkest Universe". The film which premiered at the Telluride Film Festival, focuses on the life of British artist, Louis Wain. Louis who was born in 1860, has a large family, which includes 5 other siblings, all girls. While his father had worked in textiles, Louis soon starts making a name for himself as an artist, being able to draw animals and country scenes, working in the process for different publications. He becomes the protege of Sir William Ingram, who while admitting to finding his personality quirky and different, also loves his work. At 23 Louis decides to marry his sisters' governess Emily, something shocking for the time, due to their social differences, and the fact that she was 10 years older than himself. They move to a small house outside of London, while Louis still provides for his mother and sisters, since their father has passed away. However Emily soon becomes ill, threatening their happiness. Around the same time, Emily and Louis decide to adopt a stray cat, and he starts drawing him frequently, which Emily encourages him to publish. As Louis' popularity increases, Emily's health declines and she soon passes away. Due to his lack of business prowess, all of Louis' success and prints provide little revenue, something that shocks his sisters since they're now relying on him alone to provide for the family. Louis decides to go to America and try his talent there, as publishers there have shown interest in his work.
This biopic on the life of the artist Louis Wain, while narratively fairly straightforward, tries to add a layer of difference or quirk, by focusing on a particular aspect of what Wain in the film considers, "the electricity" which runs across everything in life. Whereas Tim Burton's "Big Eyes" for instance focused on the journey of artist Margaret Keane, specifically in reclaiming her own name and reputation on the art market and in society in general, Will Sharpe chooses to detail Louis' journey as somewhat of an innocent person, always seeing the world in a unique manner, particularly more so when he starts capturing cats. As Louis' life goes through its ups and downs, his focus on his art, and making sure his family is provided for is unwavering, even if the outputs of his initiatives are not always the best. It's a film that is sadly fairly generic, considering the universe of this particular artist's life and the controversy which surrounded his later years with same claiming the onset of schizophrenia may actually have been toxoplasmosis (a disease precipitated from cats and their feces), while doctors to this day claiming otherwise. Aside from the central character, the supporting ones get very little dimension to themselves, though the trio of Benedict Cumberbatch, Claire Foy and Andrea Riseborough, all manage to create compelling performances, with good support from Phoebe Nicholls, Stacy Martin and a nice cameo from Nick Cave. The production team is solid, including the cinematography from Erik Wilson and costume design from Michael O'Connor. Watchable but ultimately forgettable.