HomeExplainersThe Electrical Life of Louis Wain summary and ending explained

The Electrical Life of Louis Wain summary and ending explained

‘The Electrical Life of Louis Wain’ is a biographical drama that sheds a light on the life of the artist, Louis Wain, and the inspiration behind his famed cat illustrations.

Summary

Louis Wain (Benedict Cumberbatch) was a peculiar illustrator with a penchant for getting into trouble quite often due to his eccentric behavior. He took on several odd jobs with the goal of supporting his household and his five sisters, being the sole male of the family.

His rather whimsical life was about to be turned upside down when his sister, Caroline (Andrea Riseborough), informs him that they have hired a governess to tutor his younger sisters. The governess, Ms. Emily Richardson (Claire Foy), is herself a very intriguing individual with a few quirks of her own.

Louis and Emily begin to form a bond much to the disgust of Caroline as well as the rest of the neighborhood. Their courtship becomes the talk of the town, bringing shame to the Wain family.

Despite all the negativity surrounding their relationship, Louis decides to ask for Emily’s hand in marriage 3 years after they first met. They move into a new house and spend the next 6 months in happiness and peace. However, their lives take a turn for the worse when Emily is diagnosed with terminal breast cancer.

On the day of the diagnosis, the couple comes across a tiny kitten sheltering itself from the rain and they decide to take it in and raise it as their pet. They name the kitten ‘Peter’ and care for it as if it were their own child taking it along for their walks as the seasons go by and Emily’s condition worsens.

As she nears her end, Louis shows Emily the many drawings he has done of their beloved Peter and she convinces him to take these drawings to his former employer, Sir William Ingram (Toby Jones). He’s highly impressed by the drawings and hires him to cover a two-page spread of the Christmas paper with his cat drawings.

Emily has passed away by the time Christmas roll around and Louis realizes that the grief of her loss inspires him to create some of the most eye-catching artwork he has come up with. The drawings are a national sensation with Louis gaining some well-deserved recognition from all corners of society.

All good things must come to an end though, and he eventually finds himself in a financial hole because he had not copyrighted his work which meant he did earn a single penny for a large portion of it. His sisters bemoaned his lack of responsibility as they were drowning in debt and relied on him to keep their family afloat.

What becomes of the great Louis Wain? Does he continue to produce more wonderful pieces? What happens to the rest of his family?

The ending of ‘The Electrical Life of Louis Wain’ explained in detail:

A change of scenery

Louis is given the news that his youngest sister, Marie (Hayley Squires), has developed leprosy and is acting completely unhinged. Diagnosed with schizophrenia, Louis approaches Sir William for assistance. Sir Willaim offers them lodging at a lower rate in one of his beachside properties, suggesting that the open air of the coast side would be beneficial for him and his family.

Marie momentarily calms down but Louis’s eventual descent into madness begins, starting off with the death of his cat, Peter. The sadness at the passing of his pet awakens something in Louis, and he sets about creating some truly magnificent cat drawings of various colors and styles.

Meanwhile, Marie’s condition begins to deteriorate again and she’s eventually sent to a psychiatric institution. Louis dives deep into his work before he ultimately decides to move to America after getting a job offer as a cartoonist there.

The ramblings of a madman

As a result of the financial plight of his family, Louis begins preparations to cross to Atlantic and move to New York where he’s been granted the opportunity to share his vision, much to the dismay of his sisters. Once he reaches the ‘Big Apple’, he meets with his new employers who wax poetic about his work.

He slowly starts to lose himself in his work, raving on about the future and the nature of cats and how they don’t differ that much from humans. He spends a few years in America, before he receives a letter from Caroline informing him of the death of their mother. She also requests that he move back to England where he can be close to his sisters in their time of need.

Things more or less go down from there, as soon after his return, he also has to face the demise of Marie as well as his former mentor and friend, Sir William. True to the story so far, each time Louis is faced with a tragic loss he becomes inspired to a higher level producing countless cat toys of many designs and shipping them off.

Counting down the 9 lives

Unfortunately for Louis, the arrival of World War 1 brought nothing but misfortune. All the work that he had shipped off were destroyed courtesy of a German U-boat and his progress was yet again brought to a standstill. As time passed, his sister Caroline became ill as well.

Her death was the straw that broke the camel’s back, as Louis had finally experienced a psychotic break warranting a permanent stay in a psychiatric hospital. All the while, he continued to produce more striking, psychedelic cat pictures that truly caught the eye.

One particular day, the hospital was visited by a Mr. Dan Rider, who he had once met in a train car many years ago. After a heartfelt chat, Mr. Rider was inspired to start up a cause for Louis. With the help of his sisters and friends, they began collecting funds in order to move Louis to a more comfortable hospital where he will be allowed to keep cats.

They even manage to gain the support of the prominent author, H.G Wells, who speaks for the cause, helping them bring in more donations. Louis finally moves into a new more comfortable hospital to live out his final days. One day, when he’s going through his journal, he finds a piece of Emily’s blue shawl, belonging to her mother, that he was so enamoured by.

He takes one look at the shawl, and then heads out into the forest to the spot where he spent the most intimate moments with Emily. He admires the beauty in front of him, trying to capture it for one last time before he meets his maker and is reunited with his one true love.


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