A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Though a sad film about loss, it also highlights the benefits of love and companionship. The strength of family, albeit a dysfunctional one, is explored, as is finding comfort in creativity. The joy of art.
Positive Role Models
Louis Wain is something of an outsider and unconventional man. He is also living with a mental illness, which is often referred to flippantly and even derogatorily by others. Despite this he is shown to be a selfless man, donating much of his earnings to his family and bringing happiness to others through his paintings.
The majority of the cast is White, although a trio of significant supporting roles belong to people of color. There is a strong female presence with various women characters showing themselves to be confident and determined. That said, given the 19th-century time period, gender roles and expectations are flawed, and would now be considered regressive with men expected to be the sole breadwinners for the family. Louis Wain offers a nuanced and multi-layered take on a man living with mental illness, despite others showing a lack of understanding. His portrayal suggests he may be neurodiverse, although this is never fully established.
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Violence & Scariness
A character threatens another with a kitchen knife. In a boxing ring, a character is seen continuously taking blows to the face. A character is diagnosed with terminal breast cancer and eventually dies. A character has a recurring nightmare where they are drowning.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Some affection shown between a couple who go on to get married. Some kissing.
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Includes "f--k" as well as "s--t." Also "damn," "ass," and "hell." "Oh my God" used as an exclamation.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Characters drink alcohol during social events, such as at restaurants.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that The Electrical Life of Louis Wain is a superb historical drama based on the real life of English artist Louis Wain and provides a unique exploration of grief. Wain -- played by Benedict Cumberbatch -- is shown to be living with a mental illness. He does find solace in creativity with his paintings bringing joy to others, even if not himself. Much of Wain's struggles come as a result of the death of his wife, Emily (Claire Foy). She is diagnosed with terminal breast cancer and she is shown deteriorating before eventually dying. There's little in terms of violence, although scenes involving boxing show punches landing. The language is strong, but infrequent, with use of "f--k" and "s--t" on occasion. Set in 19th-century England, the film does have what would now be considered regressive gender roles; men are expected to suppress their feelings and be the sole family earner, while women are considered by many as second-class citizens. However, Wain's five sisters are depicted as confident and strong women. While the cast is predominantly White there are a handful of significant supporting roles played by people of color. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
This biopic of the late English artist, who became famous for his drawings of large-eyed cats, is a joy. The Electrical Life of Louis Wain manages to strike the perfect balance between sadness and an incredibly subtle, dark comedic edge. There's an overstated, surrealist quality to the film, akin to Wain's very own work, and yet at the same time it's as human a story as you'll see all year. It may be whimsical, but it's also a profoundly moving affair, with a handful of scenes that are difficult to sit through.
Cumberbatch is sensational in the leading role, providing a nuanced portrayal of the troubled but gifted Wain. There are many impressive cameos to boot too. These include Taika Waititi and Toby Jones, while Olivia Colman provides the narration. However, the multitude of these roles can prove a little overwhelming, almost becoming a distraction to Wain's own story. But once Wain comes back into focus, the movie again finds its feet and ultimately proves to be a more than rewarding endeavor.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.