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Starring: Benedict Cumberbatch, Claire Foy, Jamie Demetriou, Andrea Riseborough, Toby Jones, Hayley Squires, Stacy Martin, Julian Barratt, Sharon Rooney, Aimee Lou Wood, Adeel Akhtar, Sophia Di Martino, Olivier Richters, Olivia Colman, Nick Cave, Taika Waititi, Richard Ayoade
OUR RATING: ★★★½
Amazon Prime bio-drama directed by Will Sharpe. The Electrical Life of Louis Wain (2021) centers on the true story of eccentric artist Louis Wain (Benedict Cumberbatch), whose playful, sometimes even surreal and psychedelic pictures, helped to transform the public’s perception of cats forever. Moving from the late 1800s through to the 1930s, we follow Wain as he seeks to unlock the “electrical” mysteries of the world, and in so doing, to better understand his own life and the profound love he shared with his wife Emily Richardson (Claire Foy).
Our Favorite Quotes:'Just remember, however hard things get, however much you feel like you're struggling, the world is full of beauty.' - Emily Richardson-Wain (The Electrical Life of Louis Wain) Click To Tweet
H.G. Wells: [on wireless] The artist Louis Wain made the cat his own. He invented a cat style. A cat society. A whole cat world. Cats that do not look and live like Louis Wain cats are ashamed of themselves. But that is not what is important. What is important is that Louis Wain devoted his life to making all our lives happier, and cattier. In doing so, he undoubtedly raised up the cat in society, and he changed our world for the better.
Narrator: Aside from its bizarre social prejudices, and the fact that everything stank of s**t, Victorian England was also a land of innovation and scientific discovery. Many of the world’s finest minds were digging deep into the nature of electricity, to harness its power for practical use.
Narrator: But for the young Louis Wain, electricity was something else, something so extraordinary and strange that the human mind was barely able even to comprehend it. A mysterious, elemental force that on occasion, he could feel shimmering in the ether, and the key to all of life’s most profound and alarming secrets.
Dan Rider: You’re very muddy. Did you get into a fight or something?
Louis Wain: No. I was attacked by a one and a half ton bull.
Dan Rider: Oh. That was you, was it?
Louis Wain: I wanted to get a closer look at him. And, well, he didn’t have a very good sense of humour, put it that way.
Sir William Ingram: Not renowned for their sense of humor, are they, really, bulls?
Louis Wain: Aren’t they?
Sir William Ingram: Why were you throwing peanuts at a bull?
Louis Wain: I heard they like peanuts, and that it calms them down. But it didn’t work. The trouble with these show cows, huge egos.
Henry Wood: This is not an opera, Mr. Wain. By conventional standards, it barely qualifies as music. And this is not a plot. It’s just some of your thoughts. I applaud your enthusiasm, but you have to master the basics of harmony first.
Louis Wain: I’ve invented my own harmonies.
Henry Wood: Yes, and that could be part of the problem. If it’s any consolation, I thought the little drawing you did on the cover sheet was rather charming.
Young Marie: Louis, did you meet an eligible young lady of means in Hampshire?
Louis Wain: No, I did not. But I did meet some goats, some geese, and a rather cantankerous bull.
Josephine Wain: That’s no use. You can’t marry a goat, can you?
Caroline Wain: Miss Richardson, why were you in the wardrobe?
Emily Richardson-Wain: Yes, well, it helps me to concentrate sometimes to be in a confined space. And with something like Shakespeare, I know it inside out already, so I just block out the world and play it through in my head.
Mrs. Wain: We’re a family of mischief-makers, Miss Richardson. We may as well have been called the Shenanigans.
Emily Richardson-Wain: It must be exhausting, having to be the grown-up.
Caroline Wain: Well, I am a grown-up, so it’s not exhausting.
Narrator: Louis had learnt to control the chaos in his mind by always moving, and for many years had been quite content frantically pursuing his various interests, as failed art teacher, failed musician, aspiring inventor, enthusiastic polyhobbyist, and, of course, part-time illustrator. But the one thing he had never considered, in spite of constant pressure to find an eligible young spouse, was the possibility of ever leading any kind of romantic life.
Narrator: And so, as a strange, tingly feeling crackled in his breast, and sparkled through this loins, I think it would be fair to say that the innocent Mr. Wain didn’t really know what the hell was going on. He had an inkling, of course. But how could he be sure that these feelings would be reciprocated?
'You cannot run away from your grief. It trails you, like a violent shadow.' - Mrs. Wain (The Electrical Life of Louis Wain) Click To Tweet
Narrator: What of the unsightly harelip that he so sproutily disguised with his careful moustache? Upon closer scrutiny, she would surely notice this unfortunate deformity and run a mile. Or perhaps, she would not be so impressed to discover, that in spite of the rather playful exterior, his mind was a dark, screaming hurricane of crippling anxieties and recurring nightmares. Not to mention, of course, the gossiping neighbours who would all consider it ghastly for a lowly governess to be engaging in these bourgeois games of courtship.
Narrator: Suffice it to say, there were a great many obstacles that stood in the way of Louis and Emily.
Louis Wain: Miss Richardson?
Emily Richardson-Wain: Yes?
Louis Wain: When it comes to drawing, there’s only really one rule you ever need to teach. It’s to look.
Louis Wain: [after shaving his mustache] I hereby atone for my drunken imposition by presenting myself to you naked.
Emily Richardson-Wain: Oh, please don’t present yourself to me naked, Mr. Wain. I might consider that to be a secondary imposition, arguably greater than the first.
Louis Wain: But you cannot have failed to observe that I have quite a profound harelip.
Emily Richardson-Wain: Yes. What of it, Mr. Wain?
Louis Wain: Sorry. Have I made a mistake?
Emily Richardson-Wain: No, I think you look very handsome.
Caroline Wain: I mean, we cannot let him out looking like this! Why you’ve committed this most wanton and violent act of self-harm, I do not know. How will he ever meet a woman of fortune?
Claire Wain: Caroline, he’s had a shave, that’s all.
'When it comes to drawing, there's only really one rule you ever need to teach. It's to look.' - Louis Wain (The Electrical Life of Louis Wain) Click To Tweet
Louis Wain: [referring to his drawings in his journal] Did you find it horrifying? All those dark and disturbing visions?
Emily Richardson-Wain: No. I found it quite reassuring, to be honest. I tend to have nightmares about not being able to get out of places. I once spent an entire dream stuck in a very complicated barn.
Louis Wain: Well, thank God you didn’t get stuck in that wardrobe.
Emily Richardson-Wain: Yeah, thank God. Thank God I had you to let me out of it.
Emily Richardson-Wain: I just wanted to thank you, Mr. Wain, for a very pleasant evening. I had a very nice time. I’ve taught of countless adventures from the safety of a schoolroom. But it was exciting to be taken on one for once.
Louis Wain: [as he kisses her] I don’t care what people think.
Emily Richardson-Wain: Nor do I.
Narrator: As this peculiar romance blossomed clumsily into flower, the discrepancy in their social standing became the cause of great controversy. One neighbor, it was widely rumored, vomited immediately upon hearing news of their courtship. For the coupling of a gentleman with a lady of the servile class was considered nothing short of revolting. Not to mention that the undeniably charming Miss Richardson was, by the standards of the day, positively geriatric. But Louis cared little for these foolish preconceptions, and in January of the year 1884, he asked Emily for her hand in marriage.
'You're the first person ever to see that they are in fact ridiculous. They're silly, and cuddly. And lonely. And frightened, and brave. Like us.' - Emily Richardson-Wain (The Electrical Life of Louis Wain) Click To Tweet
Narrator: Louis and Emily lived a perfectly normal, if societally unconscionable married life.
Doctor: I trust you will understand me when I say, you have terminal cancer of the breast.
Emily Richardson-Wain: Yes, Doctor. Just when I was starting to enjoy it.
Herbert Railton: Okay, Louis, I’m worried about you.
Louis Wain: Why?
Herbert Railton: You have a cat as a pet.
Louis Wain: Do you know the true meaning of the phrase, “There’s no time like the present,” Herb? It’s that there isn’t. It’s too fleeting. In fact, I have a hypothesis that electricity is what pushes us through time. We turn the past into the future with the power of our electricity. But that process is entirely reversible. Remembering the past is no different from imagining the future. And neither is different to life itself. I can remember Emily in the future, and she will be there. Do you see what I’m saying, Herb? Do you see what I’m saying?
Sir William Ingram: But my advice to you is this. Spend the time that you gain with your wife, because when she is gone, it will hurt. These are precious weeks, Louis. Do you understand?
Louis Wain: [as they are sat in the forest] Electricity. I feel electricity. Can you feel it?
Emily Richardson-Wain: This is our place. This is where I’ll be, Louis. When you need me.