Les Misérables (2019 film)
|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||$18.3 million|
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 on Ly's 2017 short film of the same name. Manenti stars alongside Damien Bonnard, Djebril Zonga, Issa Percia, Al-Hassan Ly, Steve Tientcheu, Almany Kanoute and Nizar Ben Fatma.
The film, set in the commune of Montfermeil in the aftermath of the 2018 FIFA World Cup, is based on a real-life occurrence of police violence which took place in the city on 14 October 2008, and was observed and filmed by Ly. The story follows several characters within the commune, as a theft from a teenager spirals into the threat of a large crisis. The film's title is a reference to the Victor Hugo 1862 novel of the same name, written in Montfermeil and partially set in it; in the novel, Montfermeil is also the setting of the meeting of Jean Valjean and Cosette, a girl abused by her adoptive parents. The film depicts abuses against poor citizens, especially teenagers of sub-Saharan African or Maghrebi ethnicities, thus stressing the continuity in the fate of the poor in Montfermeil.
It had its world premiere on 15 May 2019 at the Cannes Film Festival, where it won the Jury Prize. It was released in France on 20 November 2019 and received critical acclaim, earning twelve nominations at the César Awards and winning four including Best Film. Among other honors, it was selected as the French entry for the Best International Feature Film at the 92nd Academy Awards, eventually achieving the nomination.
The film begins with images of the crowd in Paris celebrating the victory of the French team at the 2018 FIFA World Cup in the Avenue des Champs-Élysées, which had been perceived and celebrated in France as a moment of brotherhood between people of different social classes or ethnicities.
Soon after, Stéphane Ruiz, a police officer who recently moved to Paris and joined the anti-crime brigade, is assigned to work with squad leader Chris and brigadier Gwada on duty in the nearby city of Montfermeil. Chris often aggressively abuses his power on teenagers, with Gwada complacent with that abuse; while he feels unease, Stéphane doesn't interfere. Meanwhile, Issa, a known juvenile delinquent, steals Johnny, a lion cub, from a circus, causing its owner Zorro to go to a man known as "the Mayor" and threaten to return with firearms if Johnny is not returned. Chris and his squadron are tasked with finding and retrieving the cub.
One of Issa's friends takes a picture of Issa with the cub and posts it on Instagram, leading Chris to find out that Issa is the culprit. They chase, capture and handcuff him, but he claims that the cub had run away. Issa's friends then attack the three officers, throwing things at them to stop them from taking Issa in. When Issa tries to run away, Gwada, having accidentally teargassed himself during the chase, shoots him in the face with a flash-ball. Issa's friends scatter, but the squadron realize that they have been filmed by a drone, which escapes. While Stéphane wants to take a badly wounded Issa to a hospital, Chris and Gwada refuse, and instead the trio take him with them in their search for the drone's owner.
The trio arrive at a local neighborhood contact of Chris, leaving Issa in their care and using information given to them by that contact to find Buzz, the teenager the drone belongs to, forcing him to flee before he can upload the video. Buzz, who still carries the drone's memory card, escapes the squadron and takes shelter with Salah, a restaurant owner and key member of the local Islamic community. Both the squadron and the Mayor, having found out, arrive at Salah's restaurant. After a tense confrontation during which Chris attempts to illegally arrest Buzz, Ruiz convinces Salah to give him the memory card, claiming that Issa's shooting was just an accident.
After recovering Issa and the cub (which happened to be spotted near them), the squadron takes the two to the circus. Although Issa is made to apologize, Zorro attempts to lock him as well as the cub inside a cage with a fully grown lion, scaring Issa into wetting himself and almost making Stéphane shoot the lion, until Issa is eventually let go. Deciding that Issa has learned his lesson, Chris drops him off and warns him not to tell anyone what happened, and, if asked about his injury, to say that he slipped and fell. In the evening, the characters involved in that day's event seemingly return to their normal lives, some with visible signs of distress and doubt. Issa, who had been told earlier that his father did not want him back home because of his behavior, sits alone on a ruined couch, traumatized. Later that night, Ruiz meets Gwada in a bar and tells him that he knows that a flash-ball cannot be fired by accident, and that Gwada had therefore intentionally shot Issa. Gwada blames his stress and the children for overwhelming him, and Stéphane, while unconvinced, leaves Gwada with the card, telling him to "do what you gotta do".
The next day, the squadron, while on patrol, get attacked by a small group led by Issa. They chase them, falling into Issa's trap and ending up assaulted by a much larger group of teenagers, leaving them trapped from all sides in a stairwell and fighting for their lives. Chris is wounded when a bottle breaks on his face, and the backup car Stéphane radios for gets immediately destroyed by the teenagers, forcing the backup policemen to flee. They also attack the Mayor's office, and end up clubbing him and throwing him down a set of stairs. Stéphane pounds on the nearest door, begging for help, which happens to be the door to Buzz's apartment; however, Buzz further locks the door. Issa lights a molotov cocktail and prepares to finish the squadron off with it, leading Stéphane to point his gun at him and warn him not to. The screen fades to black as both Issa and Stéphane try to decide what to do next, and a quote from Victor Hugo's Les Misérables appears: "Remember this, my friends: there are no such things as bad plants or bad men. There are only bad cultivators."
- Damien Bonnard as Brigadier Stéphane Ruiz
- 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.
Les Misérables received generally positive reviews from critics. As of July 2020[update], 86% of the 155 reviews compiled on review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes are positive, with an average rating of 7.47/10. 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 78 out of 100, based on 32 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. The film got 11 nominations for the César Awards, and won 4: Best Film, Best Editing, Most Promising Actor (for Alexis Manenti), and the Audience Award.
- List of submissions to the 92nd Academy Awards for Best International Feature Film
- List of French submissions for the Academy Award for Best International Feature Film
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