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  • The Electrical Life of Louis Wain: Cat paintings and chaos


The Electrical Life of Louis Wain: Cat paintings and chaos

★★ The true story of a troubled Victorian illustrator flounders the wrong side of whimsical

Photo: Studio Canal

The Electrical Life of Louis Wain tells the true story of British illustrator Louis Wain (Benedict Cumberbatch), who became famous in late Victorian England for his surreal, anthropomorphic cat paintings.

As a biopic, it ticks the conventional genre boxes. Cumberbatch rolls out his usual brand of odd-but-brilliant eccentric, but his performance is overshadowed by the effervescent aesthetics and Arthur Sharpe’s theremin-loaded score.

The second half of the film does let it down, especially addressing Wain’s mental health and it becomes apparent that Will Sharpe can’t translate the chaos and kinetic spark of a restless mind on screen.

The tonal shifts that see the film switch pathos for the whimsical become progressively jarring, leaving you with the sensation that, while subtitled meows and Suzie Davies’ colourful storybook set designs are delightful, its more poignant moments are at odds with its wrong-side-of-quirky stylings.


Starts Apr 21 D: Will Sharpe (UK, 2021), with Benedict Cumberbatch, Claire Foy, Andrea Riseborough.