Les Misérables – Film Review
Director: Ladj Ly
Writers: Ladj Ly (screenplay), Giordano Gederlini (screenplay)
Stars: Damien Bonnard, Alexis Manenti, Djebril Zonga
This film was almost released in March! For obvious reasons, it disappeared from view for several months and has only now reemerged. It is getting a cinema release in the IFI and other select cinemas nationwide.
While there is no actual connection to Victor Hugo’s 1862 novel of the same name, the film is set in the same part of Paris as the book; Montfermeil. The film is set in the aftermath of the 2018 world cup, where a police officer from the countryside has moved to Paris to be closer to his family. On his first day in work, he travels with two other officers to see the sights and sounds of the area. There, we meet the various groups that inhabit the Parisian slums.
The film is written and directed by Ladj Ly, who was born in 1978 in Mali. He grew up in Montfermeil, so knows his subject matter well. This film was his first major film release and shows great promise for his future career. The film won a Jury Prize in the Cannes Film Festival last year.
It would be hard not to mention the cinematography in this film, which is at times stunning. One of the characters in the film is a young kid who owns a drone. We get to see stunning images of the sprawling apartment blocks and its inhabitants. There are also scenes following the three cops on the streets, which are mostly handheld documentary-style footage, which again is impressive.
While the film does simplify some of the problems of life in the slums, it also creates a fierce and vibrant world. We see the events through the eyes of the policemen as they travel through the area looking for a stolen lion cub (I kid you not)! The pressure mounts throughout the film building to a turbulent ending, showing the pent up aggression of the youth who see no hope for the future and treat the police with contempt.