De Helaasheid der Dingen (The Misfortunates) (2010)



Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

De Helaasheid der Dingen (The Misfortunates) Photos

Movie Info

A boy growing up with a family of Flemish slobs learns more than his elders imagined they were capable of teaching in this purposefully rude comedy drama. Gunther Strobbe (Kenneth Vanbaeden) is 13 years old and living with his father, Marcel (Koen De Graeve), his three uncles (Bert Haelvoet, Johan Heldenbergh and Wouter Hendrickx), and his grandmother (Gilda De Bal). You would think that Gunther has more than enough adult role models in his life, but the Strobbes are not an ordinary family; Marcel works part-time as a letter carrier, though the fact there are several bars on his route makes getting the work done a challenge, while his brothers are booze-addled layabouts who sponge off their mother, who is too sweet to deny them her meager pension. Gunther loves his family, but they often seem more like seedy playmates than authority figures, as the men in the house spend their days gulping down beer and sausage, breaking things, playing rude pranks on others, and chasing women, often with hilarious but embarrassing consequences. Years later, Gunther has launched a career as a writer, is married, and is expecting a son; suddenly frightened by the new responsibilities that await him, Gunther seeks out Marcel and his brothers for some advice on fatherhood, a subject one might not imagine is one of their strong suits. Directed by Felix Van Groeningen, De Helaasheid der Dingen (aka The Misfortunates) was adapted from the novel by Dimitri Verhulst.
Art House & International , Comedy , Drama
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Kenneth Vanbaeden
as Kleine Gunther
Gilda De Bal
as Meetje
Sofie Palmers
as Vriendin Gunther
Guy Dermul
as School Director
Jos Geens
as André
Robbie Cleiren
as Bailiff
Sara De Bosschere
as Nele Fockedey
Wout Kelchtermans
as Kleine Franky
Yves Degryse
as Franky
Ehsan Hemat
as Sawasj
Katrien De Clercq
as Mother Gunther
Sten Van Gestel
as Gunther's Son
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News & Interviews for De Helaasheid der Dingen (The Misfortunates)

Critic Reviews for De Helaasheid der Dingen (The Misfortunates)

All Critics (19) | Top Critics (12)

If Ken Loach and Roberto Benigni went into a bar, drank themselves into a stupor and emerged the next morning with a screenplay, it might look a lot like The Misfortunates.

Full Review… | June 14, 2010
Top Critic

A bawdy, heartfelt glimpse into a proudly dysfunctional Belgium family.

June 14, 2010
Hollywood Reporter
Top Critic

The Misfortunates is a bleak comedy that's not as funny or grim as it needs to be.

Full Review… | June 10, 2010
Boston Globe
Top Critic

There's whimsy and raunchy humor here, but also an underlying sense of darkness and despair.

Full Review… | June 3, 2010
Philadelphia Inquirer
Top Critic

An appalling childhood may risk making you an unhappy person when you grow up, but it almost guarantees a great yarn.

Full Review… | April 30, 2010
Washington Post
Top Critic

Comedy doesn't get any more tragic than this.

Full Review… | April 9, 2010
Globe and Mail
Top Critic

Audience Reviews for De Helaasheid der Dingen (The Misfortunates)

Inconsistent- All uncannily obnoxious for almost 3/4 of the whole film until that enlightenment thing suddenly popped out of nowhere. It is, nevertheless, better than watching a coming-of-age story being delivered by the exact same approach/tone one after another, again & again.


This is a damn good film. I think it sort of goes from being a very low-brow comedy into an interesting examination of a very dysfunctional family and how that shapes Gunther's own life as an adult. The thing about the movie is that under all the "ugliness" the Strobbes display through their behavior, the film is certainly very heartfelt and honest about how it portrays its characters. Sure they may be ugly, unlikable, drunkards, gamblers...but they feel like a real family and that's what the film gets across greatly. They do feel like a very close and tight-knit family and you get to see their ups and downs, mostly downs really, and how they relate to each other. So it's a very well-written film, it's also well-acted but there's something about the film, it's not really a flaw, but somehow the film is content with just being very good, it never feels great. There's some inspired stuff here but it's never great and I'm not sure what the reason is for that. But at least it's still a damn good film about a fascinating family.

Jesse Ortega
Jesse Ortega

Super Reviewer


The Misfortunates works well as a coming-of-age story, because the people involved feel connected to the material. In other words, director Felix Van Groeningen has made a film that isn?t just entertaining; it?s genuine, as well. For every offbeat nostalgic moment, there are five that depict alcohol abuse and sexual depravity. This isn?t a one-dimensional portrait, and Groeningen uses the pleasant elements of the movie to ease into the uglier ones. Wonderful performances and enticing direction. One of 2009's best.

Mike T.
Mike T.

Super Reviewer

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