Acute Misfortune: A Dark passage into an Artist

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Acute Misfortune

When I went to art school in my attempt to be creative, I came across many talented people in various mediums such as drawing and painting.  Although many of these extremely gifted people were affable and had wonderful demeanors, there were a few that flaunted the stereotype of the “temperamental artist”.  Arenamedia and Dark Star Pictures film Acute Misfortune wades into the deepest and darkest end of the pool with a based on a true story of renowned Australian artist Adam Cullen.

Journalist Erik Jensen (Toby Wallace) is tasked to writing an article on acclaimed artist Adam Cullen (Daniel Henshaw) who lives in South Wales.  After his article is published in the Sydney Morning Herald, Adam asks Erik to be his official biographer.  Erik agrees and Adam drags him into a jet-black world of nihilism, male toxicity, depravity, and self-destruction in addition to his talent as a painter.

Co-written and directed by Thomas M. Wright, Acute Misfortune often juxtaposes Adam Cullen’s black and harrowing life with beautiful images of the dusty and craggy landscapes along with the watery coasts around South Wales.  When Wright doesn’t do this, he turns to the gritty interiors that color Adam’s world and coincide with his actions that display the depression and darkness of Adam’s psyche.  For Wright’s directorial debut, he has created a compound of beauty and ugliness with expert alchemy that decorates the malignant abscess of a human condition.

Daniel Henshaw is brilliant as the complex and unpredictable Adam Cullen.  Before I saw this movie, I did a bit of research on this talented artist but knew very little about him.  I believe that Henshaw does a fantastic job of showing Adam’s various emotional levels from being an Alpha Dog, to a depressive and abusive misanthrope, to an amiable but deceptive manipulator.  Henshaw gives great insight and layers to Adam Cullen as someone you would never want to meet, even on your best day.

Toby Wallace expertly holds his own as Adam Cullen’s counterpart.  The innocence and naiveté that Wallace displays (Erik Jensen was nineteen when he became Adam Cullen’s biographer) is a great contrast to Adam’s fatalistic worldview.  Wallace shows Erik’s growth from a young boy to a young man, struggling with homosexuality, his growth as a writer, and finally overcoming his fear of Adam.  Wallace’s portrayal of Erik is fantastic as he takes on whatever Adam throws at him.  Many people would have quit right at the start but Erik, who stays with Adam for four years, has the fortitude to remain and grows from his experiences. We see this in Wallace’s performance as his reactions to Adam’s relentless stimuli is perfect throughout the film.

Based on Erik Jensen’s biography, Acute Misfortune: The Life and Death of Adam Cullen (he also co-wrote the screenplay), this story is a dark and visceral journey that will pull you into the blackness.  When you come up for air, this film, like many works of art, will weigh in your brain and stay with you for days.  That’s the beauty of it.