Set in the early 19th Century Les Miserables is a film adaption of Victor Hugo’s book and successful stage play. Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman) has served 19 years in prison for stealing a loaf of bread. He is released on parole but is unable to find a job. He steals some ornaments from a church and is caught by the local police but the merciful priest tells them that they were a gift.
Valjean is determined to make use of his reprieve and he manages to change his life around, albeit having broken his parole, to eventually become mayor of the local town.Inspector Javert (Russell Crowe) has been on the search for Valjean ever since he got away, under the belief that a criminal can never be reformed. Valjean, however, is determined to devote his life to helping others and 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 June Rebellion which occurs in 1832. Cossette falls in love with Marius ((Eddie Redmayne), one of the revolutionaries, which puts Valjean in a precarious position. Torn between taking care of Cossette and helping the rebellion, Valjean, who has now been discovered by Javert, must decide whether to run or stay and fight.
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.
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.
None of concern
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?