TIFF ’21: ‘The Electrical Life Of Louis Wain’ Review

By: Amanda Guarragi

There are many biopics that do not capture the essence of the subject. In the case of Will Sharpe’s The Electrical Life of Louis Wain every characteristic filled the screen. Through his artistry and his spirited nature, Louis Wain’s story was presented in such a charming way. Louis Wain (Benedict Cumberbatch) brims with creativity, as he navigates building his career in the 1880s to support his widowed mother and five younger sisters. The academy-trained artist is skilled and his speedy portraiture has impressed many. However, his often stormy view of the world and those in it keeps him from engaging much with society. Sharpe showed Wain’s entire spectrum through unique framing and great use of flashbacks.

While watching this film, it seems that Benedict Cumberbatch was truly the perfect casting for Louis Wain. He embodied him extremely well, even down to his mannerisms. Cumberbatch had this warmth as Wain and he was very caring towards his sisters. Wain ends up hiring a curious governess, Emily Richardson (Claire Foy) for his sisters, and she brightens his life in a way even he’d never imagined. The awkward tension between the two of them carried the first half of this film, as Wain turns into a different person. He is much happier with Emily by his side and the world did not seem so dark.

As his story unfolds, you see the way that he lived and how his personal life was reflected in his art. Without saying much, the second half of this film is very emotional and Cumberbatch will move you to tears. It’s a slow, painful process for Louis Wain, but he expressed his grief and sorrow through his paintings. Sharpe beautifully framed scenes with Emily and Louis, he would blend the stillness of the scene with that of an actual painting. Sharpe just let the loving, intimate moments between the two of them breathe, so you could feel the same warmth.

The Electrical Life of Louis Wain is a beautiful portrait of his life and how he became one with his artistic side. Many things make up the mind of the artist. Through love, trauma, and grief, the pain is expressed through strokes on a canvas. The way Sharpe highlighted his life, using as much as his creative side as possible, made for a beautiful piece for Louis Wain. From the score, to the costume design, and the witty voice over from Olivia Colman, this film is a real treat and you will gain a new appreciation for Louis Wain.

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