So let me preface with...I had intended to write this blog when The El ectrical Life of Louis Wain movie was still at the theaters. ( I bou...

Movie: The Electrical Life of Louis Wain (2021)

So let me preface with...I had intended to write this blog when The Electrical Life of Louis Wain movie was still at the theaters. (I bought tickets online and everything!) Got to the theater and there was a mix up. They weren't showing it that night. I should have taken this as a sign. They were very nice and offered us passes for another day. So I ended up seeing Dune at a different theater because dammit I was going to see a new movie! (Side note: Dune was great and I can't wait for the second part.)

I wanted to like The Electrical Life of Louis Wain more. It's a tearjerker, I cried at least twice, there's a lot of death, it needed more artwork, and cats. (But really, what movie doesn't need more cats?)


This movie follows the true story of British artist Louis Wain, played by Benedict Cumberbatch. It's wonderfully narrated in case you need to know more than what's on the screen. We learn that his father has died and he's now the head of the household of five sisters and his eccentric aging mother. As a result, he's responsible for earning money. Not a person to stay in one place and be stable, he dabbles in boxing, writing, inventing, but one things for certain, he's a talented artist. He gets offered a job at the Illustrated London News, the top newspaper in the late 1880s, and he first.

Then we see where he lives. The house is run down, and his eldest sister hires a live-in governess to teach the three younger sisters. Louis is visually upset by this, especially since they have no money to pay her, BUT once he sees the governess, Emily, he's smitten. He goes back and takes the job at the paper to keep the governess.

The first part of the movie is very different than the second half. It shows Emily and Louis' budding romance through quirky awkward interactions. There's hints that Louis experienced trauma in a boat at sea, but it's never fleshed out as part of the story. Meanwhile, the snobby older sister doesn't like the way the astute and perceptive governess is influencing her sisters, or the gossip in town related to her and Louis. Louis is meant to marry for money to keep the household going, not marry for love below his station with a governess. Emily is asked to leave the house, and Louis and her solidify their love for each other, contrary to what his sisters want. In 1884 he asks for Emily's hand in marriage. 

Emily and Louis move out of his parents house to the country. (FYI-STILL NO CATS YET?! WHERE ARE THE CATS?! SHOW ME THE CATS?) He happily finds work as a dog portraitist and continues to send a support check to the ladies in his family. We see their love as blossoming but realistic, supportive, and not too sappy. Then with a dramatic blow ~ we find out that Emily has breast cancer! Louis looses his job at the news, and spends more time with his wife. They find a tuxedo kitten in the yard, take him in and name him Peter. (FINALLY A CAT!)

Louis, Emily, & Peter

Peter becomes the inspiration for more and more cat drawings. You have to remember at the time, cats were just strays, they weren't considered an animal you would have as a pet. He cheered Emily up with capturing pictures of Peter's personality. He makes cats anthropomorphic. Back in real life, they dress Peter up in a red bow, take him for walks, and he becomes a central part of their family. (Like all cats should.)

Quirky Anthropomorphic Cats

Louis remains friends with the owner of the news, and is invited back to illustrate a large centerfold piece for the Christmas edition of the paper. They want a spread dedicated to kittens because they are "delightful."  (Duh. WE KNOW THIS. Cats are the best.)

Eventually Emily just doesn't wake up one morning. This is when the movie gets very very depressing and the mood changes. Louis continues to share the beauty of the world and bury his grief in cat illustrations. There's even an exclusive newspaper dedicated to him as an artist. He brings Peter, his cat, everywhere with him essentially becoming an emotional support cat before that was even considered something you would do. He changed people's minds about cats and earned the President of the National Cat Club title. Go cat daddy! 

President of the National Cat Club and a kitty

Yay! Good things happening, but then we find out he lost a ton of money because he never copyrighted his pictures. His younger sister is diagnosed with schizophrenia and never ends up improving, his cat Peter dies (AND THEY SHOW PETER LYING ON THE FLOOR. We didn't even see his wife not waking up, we just concluded that she didn't. BUT THEY SHOW THE DEAD KITTY.) Totally awful. 

His images graced countless books, and he didn't get royalities.

Louis ends up harnessing his suffering into his work. He uses his atmospheric "electricity" to make beautiful drawings...that we see him briefly making, and are only shown the finished pieces in quick glances often already in the papers. He mentions electricity a lot, but it's never really explained either.

He gets offered a job in America to illustrate and he takes it because "he has to help the cats in America" be respected as pets...and he needs the money. He changes the blind prejudice that people have against cats. Then we learn his mother dies from influenza, so he takes a boat back home and has nightmares and hallucinations about the tragedy that happened to him as a child. It's still not explained. Maybe he was on a boat and it capsized? Anyway he gets back, gets hit by a bus and goes into a coma having visions of the future, wakes up and his sister dies of the flu. His friend, the head of the Illustrated London News, dies too. He lands in an institution. People find out of his living there and a fund is created in his honor called the Louis Wain Fund. Even H.G Wells contributes! The donations help him secure a place in a living facility in the country where he can be with cats roaming around. There's a cameo by Nick Cave in the movie that seems forced and very out of place. This whole section of the movie is sped up and glossed over, but the make up they aged him in is perfection.

Although I'm happy his psychedelic cat  pictures helped to transform the public’s perception of cats forever, he never really seems to unlock the “electrical” mysteries of the world. The acting was great, but the pacing and story needed help. AND IT NEEDS MORE CATS. I give it two kittens out of 5. Sorry.