“Art Is Pain Relief” – Adam Cullen Biopic ‘Acute Misfortune’ Review

Many of us walk the streets emitting a faux attitude, a perception of ourselves we have crafted under false pretences that others are judging us for our behaviour.

We need to look, act, become a certain way to fit in. Or perhaps, we do the exact opposite: we reject these norms, consciously choosing to go against the grain of fashionable trends or social etiquette, consequently applying the exact same subconscious methods for not fitting in as we would for trying to fit in. But in the end, no one really cares as much as you think they do. The only person you are catering for, is yourself.

The Australian biopic Acute Misfortune stars Daniel Henshall as Adam Cullen, the antithesis of your typical Archibald Prize-winning painter, shadowed by youthful and soon-to-be-regretful journalist Erik Jensen, played by Toby Wallace. Jensen is thrust into the role of biographer, following the precarious Cullen as he shoots photos, videos, guns and heroin. If it can trigger negative emotions, or simply has a physical trigger, Cullen will exploit its every angle to elicit excitement or fear, depending on the eyes of the beholder.

Debut director and writer Thomas M. Wright frames the chaotic nature of Cullen’s mania brilliantly. In every scene that Jensen arrives at Cullen’s residence, we assume the same role as Jensen. We have no goddamn idea what Cullen is going to do next. He might be in a calm tranquil state, full of ideas on capturing gritty imagery through his colourful palette and easel. He might also decide we are going to go camping in the middle of fucking nowhere so why the fuck aren’t you packed and ready to go yet?

acute misfortune miff

Aided by the screenplay’s co-authorship from the real-life Erik Jensen, based upon his own novel Acute Misfortune: The Life and Death of Adam Cullen, the sincerity in dialogue shines, grounded in the pursuit of Jensen’s drive to portray Cullen beyond what Cullen wants people to think. He is here to write the truth, not just one man’s version of the truth. However, it is Wallace’s charismatic-yet-subdued performance that provides the subtext of Jensen’s role. Is this story of a broken man who made some great paintings yesteryear really worth his health, his well-being and his sanity?

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It’s always nice to see a biopic that actually has the rights to showcase the subject’s artworks, which is extremely important to provide some insight into why Adam was the way he was. The gruesome imagery of severed heads, psychotic scribbles of anti-maternal attachment and embellishment of humanity’s vices adds complexity to Cullen’s character, coupled with Henshall’s matter-of-fact demeanour and lingering terror in his portrayal of Cullen.

Be warned, this film is filled with nearly every taboo under the sun. If you are afraid of depictions of reality at its worst, this may not be the film for you. But this is a true story. Every bit of dialogue is based upon Jensen’s own experiences with Cullen. So if you are wanting an honest portrayal of a traumatic artist that will leave you questioning whether to laugh, cry or gasp, please see Acute Misfortune.

Acute Misfortune will release theatrically across Australia from 16 May 2019, with special event screenings from 9 May.

For more details and ticketing information, visit the homepage here!


Acute Misfortune
Acute Misfortune
Entertainment Value
Reader Rating0 Votes
Directed By
Thomas M. Wright
Daniel Henshall
Toby Wallace
Gillian Jones
13 posts

About author
A lover of comedy and music. Has shamefully seen more McConaughey rom-coms than McConaughey himself. Deserted Island Movie Collection: The 90's collection of Adam Sandler films and Simpsons episodes. Best Movie Snack: Can't go past a cheeky Peppermint Choc Top.


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