“Gluckauf” means “get back above ground safely”. With this phrase, the mineworkers in South Limburg used to wish each other a safe return when they descended into the depths of the coal mines. Mining brought prosperity to South Limburg and the closure of the mines in the seventies meant that many families ended up having to struggle to survive. Entire neighbourhoods and towns became impoverished and many ex-mineworkers were simply unable to avoid the fate of scratching out a marginal existence.
Lei is one of these ex-mineworkers, trying to keep his head above water through petty theft. Almost everything in his life has gone wrong, but at least he has always had his son Jeffrey to take care of. He has raised him alone after having to remove him from his mother. Now Jeffrey is in his early twenties and has also chosen a life of crime, but in a such way that Lei fears he might finally lose his son.
The crime plot in Gluckauf is of lesser importance. The story deals primarily with the developing relationship between father and son. The strength of Gluckauf lies in its meticulousness and authenticity. With this approach, the film convinces and moves the viewer in an original and unparalleled way.