Thursday, 12 November 2009

LEEDS FILM FEST REVIEW: The Misfortunates


This film surprised me a lot. I thought it was going to be a bit crude, a bit Jackass, and unappealing. But again, it was a case of the premise in the programme being completely wrong! I wouldn’t say it was “hilarious” and it will “split your sides” – yes, it is amusing and the characters get themselves into some right situations with their outlandish behaviour, but I would class this more as a family drama – perhaps a black comedy family drama. Please don’t assume this for an out and out filthy slapstick comedy because it is so much more than that!

We follow events through the eyes of Gunther, who he is now grown up and looking back on his childhood living with his family of losers, who indulge in alcohol, naked bike rides, alcohol, singing filthy pub songs and corrupting the kids, more alcohol, living in squalor and LOTS AND LOTS OF ALCAMAHOL. Of course this provides the funniest and most outrageous moments of the film, but at other moments when someone’s life is put under the spotlight it can lead to violent and messy blow ups.

The relationship between Gunther and his father – separated, unemployed, alcoholic – is central to the film, and is brilliantly played by the two actors. Celle treats his son like a yo-yo – disowning him one moment and then awkwardly showing his love the next. When he goes into rehab you find yourself really, really wanting him to get better so that he can be there for his son, so when his brothers lead him astray again it comes with a wave of sadness. You want so much for them to be a normal family, but they are dysfunctional addicts and cannot change. The grandmother was also a stand-out character – she is effectively Gunther’s mother with his real one out of the picture, and it is so affecting when she says she was the one who phoned the social services to come round when we know already it was the school. That and the end, when grown up Gunther is thanking her for everything she did for him as a boy but she can’t understand him because she has dementia is a moment so full of emotion and poignancy it underlines everything that was so surprising about this film.

Full of depth and warmth and with an emphasis on the importance of loving and standing by your family no matter their shape, size or sobriety this is definitely worth a punt for those wanting generous doses of humour and drama.





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