Your clothes will practically reek of stale cigarette smoke, spilled beer and sausages after spending time with the Strobbes, a tight-knit Belgian clan of dimwits who routinely break furniture while slurring their way through filthy drinking songs. Coming of age in the late ’80s, mulleted 13-year-old Gunther Strobbe (Vanbaeden) is following a path of rabble-rousing courtesy of his father (De Graeve) and three uncles. All of his mentors are alcoholic womanizers living under their suffering mother’s roof—as real jobs might get in the way of their nude cycling contests, drag parties and Guinness Book--qualifying ale pounding.
Adapted from Dimitri Verhulst’s semi-autobiographical novel with a flair that recalls the squalor-and-dazzle visuals of Trainspotting, Felix Van Groeningen’s highly entertaining tale is full of hilarity, horror and heartbreak (sometimes within the same scene). Its premise is cynical: Could an indestructible family bond be the worst possible curse? When Gunther grows up to become an aspiring writer (Dhaenens), the psychological cause and effect is unsubtly spelled out, but it also rings bittersweetly true. Patterns can indeed be broken, but when you’re a teen who’s told life doesn’t begin until you get laid, you’re essentially screwed.—Aaron Hillis