1hr 51mins

Following the life of 19th Century eccentric English artist Louis Wain, a man fascinated by cats and electricity, this is a film that balances its handsomely evoked period setting with a sharp comic script and lovingly bizarre visual invention.

This feature contains flashing images which may affect viewers who are susceptible to photosensitive epilepsy.

Will Sharpe

Not unlike a delightfully weird sibling to Armando Ianucci’s The Personal History of David Copperfield (2020), Will Sharp’s second feature (his debut was the bleakly comic, Black Pond, though you may know him from his dark TV series, Flowers, which he wrote, directed and starred in) takes us into the Victorian era in order to follow the trials and tribulations of an artist who passionately commits himself to the surreal portraiture of cats.

The titular Louis, played by an endearingly peculiar Benedict Cumberbatch, is an offbeat artist whose eccentricities are a frustration to the family who rely on him for their survival. Offered a job by newspaper editor Sir William Ingram (Toby Jones, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy) and falling in love with the family governess, Emily (Claire Foy, The Crown), Louis’ life continues to come together as he becomes increasingly celebrated for his artistic output, and particularly his unique affinity for cats. Becoming increasingly fixated on electricity as the governing force of the universe, it soon becomes evident to those around him that his popular art is a moving catharsis to exorcise his own troubles and personal demons…

Cumberbatch is joined by a jaw-dropping cast of British acting talent, alongside a few unexpected cameos (Nick Cave as H.G. Wells is surely worth the price of admission alone!). The Electric Life of Louis Wain boasts consistently brilliant performances from: Andrea Riseborough (Possessor, The Death of Stalin), Hayley Squires (I, Daniel Blake, In Fabric), Julian Barrett (Mindhorn, A Field in England), Asim Chaudhry (People Just Do Nothing), Richard Ayoade (director of Submarine and The Double, star of The IT Crowd), the voice of Olivia Coleman (The Father, The Favourite) and the charismatic hilarity of Taika Waititi (What We Do in the Shadows, Hunt for the Wilderpeople).

This is a film as inventive, witty and gently surreal as the whiskered heart of its eponymous artist.

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