The flashbacks are interspersed with scenes from the life of the older Gunther, so we are given a window into the effects this childhood environment have had on him. In some respects, he seems to have inherited some of his family's male genes. On the one level he dresses up as a woman and goes partying, just like his uncles. Even more importantly, he gets the woman he is living with pregnant, and then tries to walk out on her when she refuses to get an abortion.
The trouble is, that, here too, things aren't so black and white. There is another side. He works hard at his writing. In fact he seems to be trying to come to terms with his youth and his family through the book he is working on, which is undoubtedly the story that we are being told in the flashbacks. He is kind and caring to his grandmother, now in a nursing home. We are even treated to a scene where he teaches his young son to ride a bicycle. He has escaped the brutishness of his family. Clearly heredity and environment are not the only elements in building character. What else there may be is not defined, but there is obviously something in Gunther that saves him from the family 'curse.'
The Misfortunates is a complex film that deserves all the attention it has gotten. It was the Belgian entry in the foreign film category for the 2009 Academy Award. It won a special mention from the Cinema Award Jury at the Cannes Director's Fortnight and a number of awards from the 2009 Hamptons Film Festival. It was also an official selection at several international film festivals, including the prestigious Toronto International.
The film does use subtitles.