Les Misérables first came into my life a few years ago as a high school play. Numerous rehearsals ensured that by the time the play was over, it was near and dear to my heart. Needless to say, I was beyond excited when I saw the trailer for Les Misérables the movie.
At first, I was slightly concerned about whether Hollywood would do a good enough job of capturing the essence of the book from which the play originated. Les Misérables is set in 19th Century France, and is based on a French novel by the same name.
It is a story of resilience. The resilience embodied by Jean Valjean which is echoed by the resilience of the French nationals who took part on the revolution. Valjean, played by Hugh Jackman, is a man of astonishing fortitude. Jailed for 19 years for stealing a mouthful of bread for his sister's starving child, Valjean is finally granted parole, but his ill-fated life does not get a break as he is declared a dangerous person upon release and gets parole restrictions for life.
Valjean, sick of the ensnarement of the authorities, breaks his parole and along his long journey to redemption, he comes across a priest whose clemency gives him the opportunity to begin life afresh. Valjean opens a factory under the alias Monsieur Leblanc and is kind and caring to all who cross paths with him.
However, it is evident that Valjean cannot escape his past for long when he is paid a visit by Inspector Javert, whom upon close inspection, discovers that Monsieur Leblanc and Jean Valjean are one and the same. Driven by a hunger to faithfully perform his duties, Javert, played by Russell Crowe , makes it his personal mission to bring Valjean in and make him answer for breaking his parole.
Simultaneously, Fantine, played by Anne Hathaway is one of Monsieur Leblanc's factory workers who finds herself jobless and the desperation to provide for her only child Cosette, played by Amanda Seyfried, leaves her with no option but to sell her hair and work as a prostitute. There, in the trenches in the dark of night, Valjean is confronted by Fantine, and after her death, vows to take care of Cosette so she will want for nothing.
Valjean, desperate to follow through on the promise he made to a dying Fantine, is on the run again, determined to find Cosette and bring his words to fruition. He finally finds her, and from then on, Cosette and valjean are inseparable.
Javert does not relinquish his pursuit of Valjean, and continues to track him down. Finally, lady luck seems to be smiling down on Valjean, when roles are reversed and Inspector Javert finds his life at the mercy of Valjean after being captured spying during the revolution.
Valjean decides to pardon Javert, cutting him loose and setting him free. Nevertheless, Javert is not swayed. "Once a thief, always a thief. What you want you will steal. You would trade your life for mine, yes Valjean you want a deal. Shoot me now for all I care; If you let me go beware. You'll still answer to Javert." Javert's soliloquy in the movie is a clear testimony of the fact that he will not rest until Valjean is in custody for breaking his parole. Valjean however, lets Javert go, placing no conditions on his release.
The tug of war seems to go on forever until Javert meets Valjean again, and battles with the idea of letting him go free to care for an injured Marius . Javert, in his last soliloquy, frays with himself as he laments, "there is nothing on earth that we share. It is either Valjean of Javert," and sees suicide as his only reprieve.
If you think Valjean can finally rest easy, think again. His conscience haunts him as Cosette and Marius are set to wed. Cosette knows nothing of his past, and he decides to keep it that way by disappearing for a while in order for Cosette to have some peace. Valjean and Cosette however are reunited once more when Marius discovers the truth about his salvation, and there is a bittersweet culmination of the French revolution and Valjean's life.
By the end of the film, I was inspired, and I was euphoric. I felt like I had gone back in time, a different era, and was singing along with the prisoners and the workmen, protesting against the regime. I was, quite literally, singing along. Watch it.