The subjects of today’s reviews range from a Victorian biopic of the eccentric cat painter Louis Wain, and the new series which Amazon is banking on to be their version of GOT.
The Electrical Life of Louis Wain (Video on Demand/Amazon Prime Video) – The young actor, writer and director Will Sharpe handles the directing chores of this Benedict Cumberbatch-produced film, and it’s a biopic of the Victorian artist and inventor Louis Wain, who’s played with eccentric wonder by Cumberbatch himself. Claire Foy plays the wife, the ex-governess of Wain’s nieces, who suffers a tragic blow in the course of the first half of the film. Olivia Colman provides the narration, and there are a host of cameos and support roles played by actors that should provoke recognition and delight. Sharpe has always been something of an eccentric himself – he directed and starred in the Flowers, a British black comedy series that ran from 2016-18. So from one perspective, you might think this is a match made in Heaven.
Wain is credited with having changed people’s perceptions of cats, transforming them from mere ‘mousers’ to domestic pets, and it was his paintings in the London Illustrated News that helped pave the way. He anthropomorphized them, and he imbued them with personality. Louis would have been categorized today as neurodiverse, but back then it only had him classified as a failure in keeping a job or providing income for his sisters and their children. It’s all very tightly directed by Sharpe and the highlight is the courtship between Wain and the character played by Foy. The unfortunate thing is that you can’t sustain it, and at some point, have to move on to Wain’s life of setbacks and incapacity to responsibly deal with society. There’s much to like here, but it doesn’t all come together throughout the film.
The Wheel of Time (Amazon Prime) – The first three episodes of eight have dropped for this first season of The Wheel of Time. Based on the novels of Fantasy writer Richard Jordan, fans of his works have long been waiting for this streaming adaptation. As for Amazon Prime, they’ve long mentioned that with the amount of budget they were committing to this project, and how they green lighted a second season even before the first was officially launched, the platform was looking at this series as their answer to HBO’s Game of Thrones. Now, that’s some benchmark to aspire for, and it may be too early in the day to say if they come even close. But the commitment is there, and it’s interesting enough, based on the three episodes.
The best way to describe it would be to call it a mash-up of Lord of the Rings with Shadow & Bone. Rosamund Pike leads the cast as an Aes Sedai, a gifted white witch who acts as a guide for four ‘gifted’ twenty year olds to reach the White Tower – the presumption here is that one of the four is the Chosen One, the anointed who will lead the charge against the dark forces that are amassing within the realm of this imaginary enchanted world. There are Trollocs, wolves, dragons, and all forms of magic as practiced by women known as Wisdoms. It’s a matrilineal society we’re introduced to, and it pays to remember this as the women seem to be stronger and wiser. There’s fun in the exposition of the four young protagonists, and I’ll be curious to watch and see how they sustain this.