Let’s put this right up front and out in the open: Making movies is hard. I have never made one, but I acknowledge and appreciate the commitment of time, money, and passion it takes to make a film—particularly if it is the singular work of a first-timer’s efforts. It therefore gives me no pleasure to declare that Misfortune—the first feature written, directed by, and starring Desmond Devinish—is a really, really bad film.

Devinish plays a man named Boyd, a jobless layabout whose father had died seven years prior after being betrayed by his partner in a diamond-stealing bank heist. Now Boyd’s father’s killer is out of prison, which prompts Boyd, along with his girlfriend, Sloan (Jenna Kannell), and another friend, Russell (Xander Bailey), to hunt down his father’s lost treasure before the killer decides to kill him as well.

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To Devinish’s credit, he and his cinematographer, Seth Johnson, have some understanding of diverse and engaging shot composition, making scenes that, if not exactly visually dynamic, at least make more of an effort than framing every conversation in a standard eye-level shot-reverse-shot. Unfortunately, that cinematographic competence is immensely overshadowed by the exceedingly terrible screenplay that Devinish co-wrote with his co-star Xander Bailey. Just about every line of dialogue is stilted and awkward, a confusing series of clichéd one-liners and plot-serving contrived utterances that rarely feel like a natural conversation. There are severe gaps in the logic of characters’ motivations that are either unexplained or exist only to move the plot along without regard for making the characters seem believable.

This isn’t aided by the uniformly poor performances across the board, which I cannot help but attribute to Devinish’s direction due to their consistently wooden timbre. The actors seem married to the lines on the screenplay page, patiently waiting for each other to finish what the other is saying before stating their own rehearsed phrase. Devinish himself is the worst of the bunch, presumably because he inherently received even less direction than his fellow performers. The whole production is like watching robots reenact what they think a movie should be based on from observed tropes and storylines, but they lack the spark of humanity and depth required to bring their story to life.

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The only times I really found myself enjoying Misfortune were in moments of unintentional comedy, such as a shootout in which shots of one character move in slow motion while the rest of the scene plays out in frantic real time, or a scene in which Boyd digs a whole grave with the tiniest of rocks. However, those moments are few and far between, so this film doesn’t even rise to the occasion of providing a cruel sense of schadenfreude. It pains me to bear this bad news, but Mr. Devinish’s first feature film is a flop, and it flops hard. We can only hope that his next film will learn from the mistakes of this one, and hopefully he can leave the writing and leading role to someone more qualified than himself. Ambition is admirable, but one needs to know the limits of their own abilities.