This Flemish production kicks in with its protagonist, Gunther Strobbe, suffering mightily both in the present and in flashback.
In the now, our hero (Valentijn Dhaenens) is a melancholy, still-unpublished young poet whose girlfriend is pregnant with a child he doesn't want. In the 1980s, where most of the film takes place, he's a sensitive 13-year-old (Kenneth Vanbaeden) trying to keep his balance while residing with his alcoholic dad and his equally inebriated (and mostly unemployed) three uncles. They booze and fornicate, and they keep the outhouse door open when they poop. In flashback, can Gunther escape to boarding school? In the present, can he get recognized for his literary talents and learn to love?
Adapted by director Felix van Groeningen from Dimitri Verhulst's autobiographical novel, The Misfortunates moves from intentionally depressing to, in the end, mildly uplifting — but that likely comes too late to win over an audience that's been strapped to such a vulgar, offputting ensemble.