Coming from writer/director Will Sharpe, writer Simon Stephenson and Amazon Original Films is the unique story with THE ELECTRICAL LIFE OF LOUIS WAIN.
Louis (Benedict Cumberbatch) is an Edwardian artist and illustrator living in London who can in a moment’s notice create art work drawings of animals. Taking care of his sisters, he has to deal with the bossy and emotionally undermining sister Caroline Wain (Andrea Riseborough). When Sir William Ingram (Toby Jones) offers Wain a position of illustrating for his paper.
Accepting the position, he has time for little else. When governess Emily (Claire Foy) becomes part of the very busy household, it is the first time that Louis feels something so strong for someone outside his family. His world changes when he decides to marry the lovely Emily and they move into the country to be together.
Still taking care of his family in the city, Louis is continually working. When he and Emily discover a young kitten in their garden and name it Peter, something wonderful begins to happen. Louis finds inspiration and everything changes as the drawings become an instant sensation.
When Emily becomes ill, his life shifts once again. The emotional turmoil sends Louis through a period where nothing feels right. Even his theory about electricity going from person to person transforming them was not helping him or his sister who is eventually confined to an asylum.
His own personal spiral is filled with pain, anguish and cats.
Cumberbatch as Wain manages to, with ease, give his character the right amount of innocence mixed in the emotional instability. The pressures of being entirely responsible for a family, it is clear that there were issues in the family as seen with his own sister. When Cumberbatch is on the screen with Foy, something amazing happens. There is a spark that is joyous because Wain had the one thing he did not get at home – love and acceptance.
Foy as Emily is delightful, pragmatic and knows exactly what it is that her husband needs in the way of support. There life away from his family is filled with smiles, love and even laughter, especially when a little ball of fuzz makes its way into their lives. Treating Percy like a child, they lavish all the love and affection parents would.
Riseborough as Caroline has emotional issues of her own ranging from anger at her brother’s lack of financials to anger of his marriage to Emily and just general unhappiness with life. Consistently putting pressure on Louis, Riseborough does not pull any punches in her performance to the point of even having me wide eyes and jaw dropped.
Other cast include Jamie Demetriou as Richard Woodville, Indica Watson as young Felcie, Cassia McCarthy as young Claire, Sophia Di Martino as Judith, Taika Waititi as Max Kase, Dorothy Atkinson as Mrs. DuFrayne, Nick Cave as H.G. Wells, Daniel Rigby as Bendigo, and Oliva Colman as the Narrater.
Amazon Prime offers television shows and original content included in its Amazon Prime subscription. Original programs such as CARNIVAL ROW, THE MAN IN THE HIGH CASTLE, and THE MARVELOUS MRS. MAISEL are hit shows. Coming soon is the next series with GOLIATH starring Billy Bob Thornton and it promises to another successful and intense series.
Wain did not only do drawings of cats, he also did country scenes and drew for Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News to The Illustrated London News. It was in 1886 that the later published a drawing called “A Kittens’ Christmas Party”. Over his lifetime he would illustrate children’s books and did work for magazines, papers and postcards.
Cumberbatch is able to capture the financial problems that Wain had throughout his life. Constantly exploited, he was unaware of the financial losses he would take because of no copyright. Even going to the United States, he was met with an audience who did not understand his way of thinking.
Eventually he would be hospitalized where he would spend his days trying to find the peace that had avoided him in life. H. G. Wells said, “he has made the cat his own. He invented a cat style, a cat society, a whole cat world. English cats that do not look and live like Louis Wain cats are ashamed of themselves.”
THE ELECTRICAL LIFE OF LOUIS WAIN is beautiful done with costuming and set designs that adds to the story. Cumberbatch gives the performance of a man who had an amazing and stunning talent but hindered by a condition that clearly could not be accurately diagnosed or treated correctly.
Adding Foy into the mix, even if her performance could be considered brief, gives us a look at the life Wain could never have imagined for himself. These two on screen brought a chemistry that is mesmerizing to watch.
For anyone who knows the work of Wain or even loves cats – just remember that this is the man responsible for giving cats a homelife, for becoming more than mice catchers but instead becoming furry and purring members of our families.
In the end – he saw something no one else did.