Confronting and abusive, controversial award-winning Australian artist Adam Cullen convinced a naive, emerging journalist, Erik Jensen, to accept a commission offered by Thames & Hudson to write his biography. What followed were several years of traumatic dependency for the 19 year-old.
An extraordinary Daniel Henshall (Snowtown, Okja) inhabits the crazed world of drugs, guns and alcohol of Cullen. It’s bold and uncompromising. As the vulnerable Jensen, Toby Wallace (Babyteeth, The Turning) struggles to fully convince as Cullen is simultaneously abusive yet needy, reliant on the journalist as his only friend but equally prepared to calmly force him off his motorbike. It’s virtually all one way as the artist continues to perform to a willing audience of one. But as the years unfold (four in total) and injuries mount, so the penny about the book commission slowly drops.
Tonally, Acute Misfortune is bleak, adding to the sense of menace and foreboding. It’s based on a true story – but on Erik Jensen’s own approach to a biography of Cullen and experiences of those four painful years. Those years are certainly challenging to watch and, at times, hard to believe. But, among the extremes, first time director Thomas M Wright captures fleeting moments of delicacy and vincibility.