(No relation at all to the musical other than the setting also being Montfermil) Watching Les Miserables reminded me of this year being the 25th anniversary of La Haine, another highly powerful French movie engaging with their issue of police brutality, and how this sadly feels circular in terms of talking about what’s essentially the same subject matter.
Set in the immediate aftermath of France winning the 2018 World Cup, a rookie cop travels with two other policemen and comes to see how broken and complicated the system can be. The story subsequently joins up with a commune in a poor area, where a lion cub’s stolen by a kid from a travelling circus and his story intertwines both with the police and the commune itself, the two sides relating to one another in varying ways.
Indeed, unlike La Haine, though fantastic regarding achieving its own aims, Les Miserables feels dedicated to suggesting how and why the French police and communes are perhaps broken, and what might come next. Neither is filled to the brim with bad apples and so we should instead overall be looking at the system. Although I live in the UK it makes me think about the situation over here, which is a whole other conversation.
After all, when one kid (Issa, very naturally played by Issa Perica) steals a lion cub things spin out of control. You also get to see other characters within his commune, including his family that evidently neglect him, so there’s also that. Plus, a child with a drone becomes key later on regarding something he ends up recording that’s a spoiler to elaborate on, with all sorts to then think about. It’s to the film’s credit that nothing therefore feels lacking narratively.
The only criticism I’d have really is as we get towards the end the pacing, brilliant up to this point, stops feeling natural and starts dragging. Maybe that’s a price of there being so much ambition thematically though. All the same, I can’t recommend Les Miserables enough. We’re in perfect times to be introspective, and I’m grateful to have subsequently tried this.