A More than a hundred years before feline memes became ubiquitous, the work of artist Louis Wain was the vanguard of a feline charm offensive. His playful, anthropomorphized illustrations of smiling kittens took Victorian society by storm. This suitably quirky biopic from director and co-writer Will Sharpe, starring Benedict Cumberbatch in the title role, takes Wain’s artistry as its initial visual key but goes a step further, using everything from an increased palette to angles woozy Dutch cameraman to shimmering auras to convey Wain’s unstable mental state. The artist was, to put it mildly, delirious. As told in the film, he believed that cats evolved to communicate with humans and would eventually turn blue; he was obsessed with the idea of electricity, but believed it to be a free-floating entity that drifted around the ether.
But in all the chaos seething in Wain’s mind, there was a quiet place reserved for his wife, Emily (Claire Foy). Thanks to her and their all-too-brief marriage, he was able to disconnect from the noise and beauty of the world around him. Like Wain’s art, the film is superficially twee – the characters are referred to as “nosy poseys” at one point – but beneath the kitsch lies something more rewarding: a touching portrait of a creative but troubled man.