Story

Les Miserables is a movie adaption of Victor Hugo’s 19th-century book and the stage musical from the 1980s and 1990s based on the book. Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman) has served 19 years in prison for stealing a loaf of bread. He is released on parole but can’t find a job. He breaks his parole by stealing some ornaments from a church and is caught by the local police, but the merciful priest tells the police the ornaments were a gift. Valjean is determined to make use of this reprieve and manages to change his life. Eventually he becomes mayor of the local town.

Inspector Javert (Russell Crowe) has been on the search for Valjean ever since he got away, believing that a criminal can never be reformed. Valjean, however, is determined to devote his life to helping others. When one of his factory workers, Fantine (Anne Hathaway), loses her job and turns to prostitution in desperation, Valjean promises to take care of her daughter, Cossette. When Fantine dies, Valjean raises Cossette (Amanda Seyfried) as his own daughter.

Valjean and Cossette are both caught up in the 1832 June Rebellion. Cossette falls in love with Marius (Eddie Redmayne), one of the revolutionaries. This puts Valjean in a precarious position. He has been discovered by Javert and is torn between taking care of Cossette and helping the rebellion. He must decide whether to run or stay and fight.

Themes

Poverty; revolution

Violence

This movie has some violence. For example:

  • Valjean is beaten up by the police and is shown with blood on his face.
  • Javert and Valjean have a sword fight.
  • A cat’s tail is accidentally chopped off.
  • The revolutionary battle scene is particularly bloody and disturbing. Many people are shot and killed, including a young boy. Their bodies are shown lying in pools of blood.
  • Javert is caught and punched unconscious. He ends upwith a rope around his neck.
  • Eponine (Samantha Barks) is the daughter of innkeepers and grew up with Cossette. She’s also in love with Marius and dies trying to save him.
  • The leader of the revolutionaries is shot and falls out of a window upside down. He hangs from the window.
  • Javert finally takes his own life. He falls from a high ledge into water and lands with a thud on the water’s edge.

Content that may disturb children

Under 5

Children in this age group are likely to be disturbed by the violence mentioned above. 

From 5-8

Children in this age group are also likely to be disturbed by the violence mentioned above. 

From 8-13

In addition to the violent scenes mentioned above, this movie has some scenes that could scare or disturb children in this age group. For example:

  • The people’s poverty is distressing. People, including children, live very rough on the streets.
  • The opening scene shows prisoners being used as slaves to pull a ship up out of the sea with ropes. Valjean has to lift a very heavy log.
  • Men hang from ropes.
  • Fantine is dying in the hospital. She imagines she sees Cossette.
  • Marius is shot in the battle. Valjean drags him through sewers to save his life. 

Over 13

In addition to the violent and distressing scenes mentioned above, this movie has some scenes that could disturb children in this age group. For example:

  • Prostitutes line the street trying to attract clients.
  • Fantine sells her hair and has her teeth pulled out for money. Eventually she becomes a prostitute. 

Sexual references

This movie has some sexual references. For example:

  • There are some bawdy scenes in a tavern.
  • Prostitutes work on the streets. 

Alcohol, drugs and other substances

This movie shows some use of substances. For example:

  • There is quite a bit of drinking in the tavern.
  • Characters drink and smoke at the revolutionaries’ meeting. 

Nudity and sexual activity

This movie has some nudity and sexual activity. For example:

  • As a prostitute, Fantine has sex with a soldier. The scene doesn’t show nudity and isn’t too graphic.
  • A bawdy scene in a tavern shows a woman having sex with Santa. 

Product placement

None of concern 

Coarse language

This movie has some coarse language. 

Ideas to discuss with your children

Les Miserables is an emotionally charged musical drama. It remains faithful to the original story, but this screen version is more intense than the stage version. It is likely to be too disturbing for children under 13 years as well as some older teenagers. Although upsetting, the story’s underlying themes of forgiveness and redemption make it worthwhile viewing for older teenagers and adults.

The main messages from this movie are that people can change and redeem themselves after committing crimes. The story is also about faith, forgiveness and justice for all.

Values in this movie that you could reinforce with your children include selflessness, dedication to a cause, care for others and the fight against injustice.

This movie could also give you the chance to talk with your children about real-life questions such as the following:

  • Is a just cause worth dying and killing for?
  • Should Javert have continued his pursuit of Valjean out of a sense of duty?