Film No 15 (2015) : Les Miserables

les mis 2You know when they do those Christmas special programmes, the ‘Top 100 Top Gear Moments’ and the like? Well, I hope that when ‘The Top 100 Best Movie Moments Ever’ is made, that a scene from the 2012 screen adaptation of Victor Hugo’s ‘Les Misérables’, is right up in the top 10. My vote would be for Anne Hathaway as Fantine singing ‘I Had a Dream’. Although I liked Susan Boyle’s BGT rendition, it wasn’t a patch on Anne’s.

I first saw ‘Les Miserables’ at the cinema and having watched it again on Netflix this week, I think it needs a big screen to do it justice. It is an epic movie with virtually no spoken dialogue. Instead, the plot is progressed via the action, the lyrics of the songs and a musical script. Not a format everyone enjoys, but the musical score of the film is so strong that I was swept along.

Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman) has served his sentence for stealing a loaf of bread and is released on parole. But he skips parole and chased through the years by police inspector Javert (Russell Crowe). Valjean succeeds in making some sort of life for himself and rises to the position of mayor in Montreuil. When Fantine, a worker in one if his factories, is driven to prostitution and later dies, Valjean agrees to take care of her daughter (Cosette). The course of Cosette’s life does not run smoothly; she falls in love with a young revolutionary called Marius (Eddie Redmayne) whose eventual predicament leads Valjean to an act of courage and devotion which ensures the young lovers can be together.

The themes of the story are biggies; isolation, fear, love, poverty, freedom. The only slight reprieve from the gloom comes from the grotesque but nevertheless comedic characters Mr & Mrs Thénardier (played by Helena Bonham Carter and Sacha Baron Cohen).

Other than that the film is, as the name suggests, miserable. It is difficult to pinpoint an occasion when it would seem like a good idea to settle down to watch 158 minutes of toil and trouble, when there are so many more light-hearted options available. But despite the melancholy, or maybe because of it, ‘Les Miserables’ is compelling as it examines the bleakness of the human struggle. It is one to watch – but probably not if you have just had a row with your partner or opened your bank statement. Unless, of course, you just need a really good wallow!

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