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The Misfortunates (Dutch: De Helaasheid der Dingen) is a 2009 Belgian comedy-drama film directed by Felix Van Groeningen. It is based on a 2006 novel by Dimitri Verhulst.

Gunther Strobbe was raised in the 1980's in a small Belgian village by his grandmothers, his father and his three uncles. His father and his uncles are alcoholics.


The Misfortunates provides examples of:

  • The '80s: Gunther Strobbe grew up in the 80's. This period is carefully reconstructed in the film (the clothes, the hairstyles...).
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  • Abusive Parents: Celle is sometimes violent with his son Gunther. When Gunther tells him that he wants to go to boarding school, he wants to beat Gunther and Meetje has to protect her grandson. When Nele Fockedey shows up, he guesses that Gunther called her and flies into rage. His brothers and his mother have to protect Gunther from him.
  • The Alcoholic: All the men in the Strobbe family, including the late grandfather. Celle stands out: he must go to rehab.
  • Anachronic Order: The sequences about Gunther's childhood are interspersed with sequences about his young adult life.
  • Aw, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other: Celle is violent with his son Gunther. Several times he tries to beat him. Nevertheless several scenes show that he truly loves his son, in particular the scene where they run together when Celle goes out of rehab.
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  • Bawdy Song: Aunt Rosie is infuriated because his brothers taught a bawdy song to her daughter. In the end, the Strobbes sing this song in the care home where their mother Meetje lives.
  • Big, Screwed-Up Family: Gunther's grandfather was an alcoholic. His father and his uncles are alcoholics. His aunt is beaten by her husband. Gunther's father is violent with him.
  • Coming-of-Age Story: Over the course of the film the 13-year-old Gunther realizes that he has to distance himself from his family, if he does not want to become an alcoholic loser like them.
  • Deliberately Monochrome: Some scenes of the film are in black and white.
  • Domestic Abuse: Aunt Rosie is beaten by her husband.
  • Drinking Contest:
    • The owner of the bar organizes a competition to set a world record of beer drinking.
    • Breeze creates a drinking version of the Tour de France.
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  • Drunk Driver: After winning the beer-drinking contest, Koen takes his car. He drives into opposite traffic and has a car accident with criminals.
  • The Film of the Book: The film is based on a 2006 novel by Dimitri Verhulst.
  • Like Father, Like Son:
    • The four Strobbe brothers are alcoholics like their father.
    • Zig-zagged with Gunther: he has a child with a woman he does not like, like his father Celle, but he manages not to be an alcoholic loser like him.
  • Luke, I Am Your Father: Sylvie meets her father André in a bar. Sylvie did not know that he was his father. The Strobbe brothers thought that it was the right time for her to meet him.
  • Making Love in All the Wrong Places: Gunther was conceived when his parents had sex in the car park of a bar in daylight.
  • Missing Mom: Gunther's mother is separated from his father. Gunther is raised by his father and his father's family.
  • Most Writers Are Writers: The protagonist, Gunther, is a writer.
  • Naked People Are Funny: This is probably why the owner of the bar organizes a naked cycling race.
  • Off the Wagon: Celle goes to rehab. One day, he comes back home. He says that he must stay sober. His brothers suggest that he should come with them to play billiards in the bar. Finally, he follows them and spends the whole night in the bar.
  • The One Who Made It Out: Gunther finally manages to escape the fate of his family: he leaves his natal village and becomes a successful writer.
  • Shoutout: Gunther buys a Smurf figurine at a flea market (the figurine is a Smurf who drinks beer). There is also a guy disguised in Smurf in the scene where Gunther goes to the carnival.
  • Unfortunate Names: Nele Fockedey. The Strobbe brothers have a lot of fun when they hear this name.
  • Waiting for a Break: Gunther would like to be a poet, but he does many survival jobs like pizza delivery boy or call-centre worker.

Alternative Title(s): De Helaasheid Der Dingen

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