Les Misérables (2019 film)
Les Misérables is a 2019 French drama film directed by Ladj Ly in his full-length feature directorial debut, from a screenplay by Ly, Giordano Gederlini and Alexis Manenti, based upon the short film of the same name by Ly. It stars Damien Bonnard, Alexis Manenti, Djebril Zonga, Issa Percia, Al-Hassan Ly, Steve Tientcheu, Almany Kanoute and Nizar Ben Fatma. The film is based on police violence on October 14, 2008 in Montfermeil, observed and filmed by Ladj Ly. Montfermeil is a suburb 25 kilometers to the North East of Paris where, in Victor Hugo's 1862 novel Les Misérables, former convict Jean Valjean meets Cosette, a girl abused by her adoptive parents. The film describes abuses against poor citizens, especially teenagers, of African or Arabic ethnicities, thus stressing the continuity in the fate of the poor in Montfermeil.
|Directed by||Ladj Ly|
|Produced by||Toufik Ayadi|
|Screenplay by||Ladj Ly|
|Based on||Les Misérables |
by Ladj Ly
|Music by||Pink Noise|
|Edited by||Flora Volpeliere|
|Distributed by||Le Pacte|
|Box office||$9.4 million|
It had its world premiere at the Cannes Film Festival on 15 May 2019. It was released in France on 20 November 2019 by Le Pacte. It was selected as the French entry for the Best International Feature Film at the 92nd Academy Awards.
The film begins with images of the crowd celebrating on Paris' Avenue des Champs-Élysées the victory of the French team at the 2018 FIFA World Cup, which had been perceived, and celebrated in France as a moment of brotherhood between people of different social classes or ethnicities.
Police officer Stéphane Ruiz moves to a Paris suburb to get a better chance at gaining custody of his son from his divorced wife and gets a job with the SCU's anti-crime brigade on duty in the nearby city of Montfermeil. Stéphane Ruiz is assigned to work with brigadier Gwada and squad leader "Pink Pig" Chris. Chris often and aggressively abuses his power to frisk young girls, which reminds of Cosette's fate. Gwada is complacent with that abuse.
Circus leader Zorro has a lion cub stolen from him by young slum kid Issa and confronts the slum's mayor about it. The squadron steps in and promises to find the cub and Zorro threatens to return with firearms if they do not find it. Chris finds Issa when he brags on Instagram about stealing the cub. They chase him down, but when Chris asks him where the cub is, he claims it ran away. Issa's friends surround the squadron and attempt to free him, and Gwada accidentally teargasses himself in the process. When a panicked Issa runs, a delirious Gwada shoots him in the face with a flash ball. Drone-obsessed teen Buzz catches the confrontation on video and plans to release it. Chris spots the drone, and the squadron sets out to locate it, taking a severely injured Issa with them.
Chris uses his local neighborhood contact to find Buzz and leaves Issa with them. Buzz is in the process of uploading his video when the squadron arrives. Buzz flees with the memory card while Gwada destroys his drone. Buzz takes shelter with restaurant owner Salah just as the squadron and the mayor arrived. After a tense confrontation in which Chris attempts to illegally arrest Buzz, Ruiz convinces Salah (whom he had met before) to give him the memory card. Chris' contact drops off Issa just as HQ radios in that the cub was spotted in a nearby park.
The squadron captures the cub and takes it back to Zorro, making Issa apologize. Zorro dangles Issa in front of a fully grown lion, scaring him into wetting himself. Deciding Issa has learned his lesson, Chris drops him off and warns him not to tell anyone what happened. Ruiz reveals he has the memory card and threatens to release it, which Chris angrily warns him against. A distraught Gwada goes home to his elderly mother, a seemingly unaffected Chris goes home to his family, and Ruiz goes home to his still unpacked apartment and calls his son. Buzz watches a basketball game he promised a girl he'd film, and a traumatized Issa sits alone on a ruined couch. Later that night, Ruiz meets Gwada for dinner and tells him a flash ball cannot be fired by accident. Gwada blames the children for overwhelming him. Ruiz decides to give Gwada the card, telling him, "do what you gotta do." Gwada chooses not to release the video.
The next day, Issa tells his friends what happened to him, and they plan an assault. They destroy the squadron's car with a firework and trap them in a stairwell when they give chase. They destroy the mayor's office as well and club him when he protests. They also destroy the backup car Ruiz radios for. Chris is wounded when a bottle breaks on his face, and Ruiz pounds on the nearest door, begging for help. Issa lights a molotov cocktail and prepares to finish the squadron off with it. Ruiz tearfully begs Issa not to, pointing his gun at him. Buzz watches from behind the door, having chosen not to let the police in. As Issa decides whether to throw or not, the screen fades to black, and a quote from Victor Hugo' Les Misérables comes up: "Remember this, my friends: there are no such things as bad plants or bad men. There are only bad cultivators."
- Damien Bonnard as Stéphane / Pento
- Alexis Manenti as Chris
- Djebril Zonga as Gwada
- Issa Perica as Issa
- Al-Hassan Ly as Buzz
- Steve Tientcheu as The Mayor
- Almamy Kanoute as Salah
- Jeanne Balibar as The Commissioner
- Raymond Lopez as Zorro
- Omar Soumare as Macha
- Sana Joachaim as Bintou
- Lucas Omiri as Slim
- Nazar Ben Fatma as La Pince
In October 2018, it was announced Damien Bonnard, Alexis Manenti and Djebril Zonga had joined the cast of the film, with Ladj Ly directing from a screenplay he wrote alongside Giordano Gederlini and Alexis Manenti.
The film had its world premiere at the Cannes Film Festival on 15 May 2019. Shortly after, Amazon Studios acquired U.S. distribution rights to the film. It also screened at the Toronto International Film Festival on 10 September 2019. It was released in France on 20 November 2019 by Le Pacte. It was released in the United States on 10 January 2020.
On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 82% based on 51 reviews, with an average rating of 7.41/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "Les Misérables transcends its unwieldy story with compelling ideas and an infectious energy that boils over during a thrilling final act." On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 75 out of 100, based on 15 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews."
It was selected to compete for the Palme d'Or at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival, where it won the Jury Prize. It was selected as the French entry for the Best International Feature Film at the 92nd Academy Awards, making the December shortlist, then later being nominated. The film received 3 nominations to the 32nd European Film Awards, for Best Film, Best Screenwriter and European Discovery, winning the latter.
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