Acute Misfortune film review: brutal and insistent

Toby Wallace as Erik Jensen in Acute Misfortune.
Toby Wallace as Erik Jensen in Acute Misfortune.

IN a cautionary tale about artistic life, Acute Misfortune toys with the precipice of madness in its Blue Mountains setting.

It tells the story of the relationship between the painter Adam Cullen (Daniel Henshall) and young journalist Erik Jensen (Toby Wallace) between 2008 and 2012, based on Jensen’s biography.

Indeed, the creation of the biography drives the narrative.

Back then, the 42-year-old Cullen was the subject of a career retrospective at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, with ambitious 19-year-old The Sydney Morning Herald journalist Jensen commissioned to write a profile.

Cullen believes Jensen ‘gets him’ and a relationship is born, with Cullen taking him on as his biographer based on a purported contract.

The artist is clearly deeply driven in his process by his neuroses and obsessions, making no compromise for anyone, including his young charge, who ends up shot and thrown from a motorbike among his travails.

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Daniel Henshall as Adam Cullen in Acute Misfortune.

However, it’s too late for Jensen. He’s caught somewhere between his own ego, Cullen’s all-encompassing personality, artistic drive and the art itself.

With Jensen as co-writer with the director, there is no escaping the depths of this intoxication.

That is until it explodes like the paint splatters Cullen creates by shooting them with a rifle.

Eventually Cullen was arrested for possession of multiple illegal firearms but was spared a 15-year sentence under the Mental Health Act.

There are too many remarkable pieces of cinematography to mention but needless to say, if Cullen was somewhat spared the audience is not.

There’s a brutality and insistence here you constantly want to get away from, but you empathise with Jensen’s dilemma and stay until the end.

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THE ESSENTIALS

Acute Misfortune (MA 15+)

Directed by: Thomas M. Wright

Starring: Daniel Henshall, Toby Wallace, Genevieve Lemon, Max Cullen

Reviewed by: Martin Turner

Advanced screening: May 10

4 stars