A cross-section through the adult life of a cartoonist, misfortune inventor, unfulfilled boxer and author of a failed opera, Louis Wain, famous for his love of cats, which he liked to give human characteristics.
With a title like “The crazy world of Louis Wain”, a funny poster, Benedict Cumberbatch in the lead role and a description on Filmweb categorizing it as a biographical film, a slash, a romantic comedy, you’d expect to see a light and pleasant film about a guy from cats. For the first half an hour it even looks like that – a funny narrative, situational jokes, an atmosphere of awkward romance all blend together, giving the viewer an image as charming as it is genuinely comical. Then a tragedy occurs. And another one. And next. And so on until the end of the movie. The tears are just pouring out of the eyes. You have to be careful not to get dehydrated.
The crazy world of Louis Wain (2021) – movie review [Kino Świat]. Understand electricity
For those unfamiliar with the subject (and if this is the case, I recommend not to read too much about the subject of the film and go blind as possible, then we will have a much stronger experience), Louis Wain (Cumberbatch) was born in the mid-nineteenth century as the first of six English children merchant – the only boy. We meet him when he is already an adult man, supporting his mother and younger sisters on his own. Father died, mother is sick, the eldest sister takes care of the house. Louis doesn’t really mind this sort of thing, though. He sells his pictures to the newspaper to buy house and food, but he doesn’t enjoy it. Instead, he prefers to box – although he is hopeless at it. He would like to write theater – but he cannot, because he would like to do everything his own way. He also has no flair for business. His life situation changes dramatically when the governess, Elizabeth Richardson (Claire Foy) is hired to his home. Though Louis doesn’t even want to hear about her at first, it quickly turns out that things are happening in his chest and loins that until now were completely alien to him. And it is more or less at this point that the road begins that will make him “Cat-Man,” a person who, by himself, changed the way people look at cats.
The film’s writers, Simon Stephenson and Will Sharpe, who is also the director of the entire project, do not focus heavily on Wain’s creative process. Of course, it is presented in a cursory manner in the film, but never becomes its main theme. The viewer has to add some things to himself, connect the dots. Louis Wain’s Crazy World is first and foremost a film about love – for another person, for the family, for himself, for animals, for art. When we meet him, Louis is completely deprived of her, but over time it becomes something so important and irreplaceable for him that he literally destroys him with each subsequent loss of a loved one – and there are many of those in the film. And these losses affect the viewer in the same way. If I were to judge Sharpe’s film solely on how it resonated with me on an emotional basis, it would probably be quick and full of breath. But the movie is about more than just feelings.
The crazy world of Louis Wain (2021) – movie review [Kino Świat]. As in the picture
Cinema is also pictures, sounds, acting and this invisible thread that connects them into a beautiful whole – theoretically. As for the visual side, there is absolutely nothing to complain about. The camera led by Erik Willson in the first act of the film captures the amusing interactions of the characters, their vices and the slowly evolving mutual fascination of Louis and Emily with long shots. Later, it slows down as their lives become calmer and full of color. Some of the shots literally look like pictures, with colors shimmering and changing before our eyes. Later, however, the world becomes grayer and devoid of this magic. The music takes turns full of joyful splashing, rich in wind instruments and more nostalgic, overwhelming string melodies. It may be somewhat obviously playing the strings of the hearts of the audience, but you have to admit to the composer, Arthur Sharpe, that he does it very effectively.
The heart of the film is the heart of the main character, and that belongs to Miss Richardson. Thus, the film would not have had the slightest chance of success if the stars of the main roles had not produced between themselves that so-called chemistry that Louis himself would probably have called “electricity”. Fortunately, the electrons between Cumberbatch and Foy jump with such intensity that I wouldn’t be surprised if they really fell in love with each other, at least for the duration of the filming. The rest of the cast also cannot be faulted at all. Louis’ sisters are suitably cute and quirky when they are young and annoying when as old brides they only want money from their brother. The owner of the newspaper to which the main character draws, Sir William Ingram (Toby Jones) balances the delicate line of being Louis’ boss and friend at the same time, and the story is held together by an off-screen narrative led by Olivia Coleman. The only thing I can complain about is that the comedy so dominant in the first part of the film disappears at some point irretrievably, so basically we get quite clearly separated comedy and drama, which can offend some of the audience.
“Louis Wain’s Crazy World” is not a perfect film, but as a biography of an extraordinary mind it works perfectly well. The scriptwriters very wisely decided to weave humor into their story, instead of merely chronicling (although at the end it looks a bit like that) subsequent events in Wain’s life, thanks to which the whole thing is viewed like a regular feature film, probably because some of the events were probably invented by themselves. Some scenes could probably not exist in the film at all, because they do not serve anything specific, and some percentage of viewers will turn their noses at the fact that the film about the artist focuses more on his love life than art, but an excellent acting, emphasizing the nature of the scenes music and visuals clearly communicate that this is what this film was supposed to be like. If you get carried away by an emotional journey that Sharpe wants to take you on, you can add one more note to the final score. If, on the other hand, you were counting on a film about art, take one thing.