Les Misérables (2019 film)

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Les Misérables
Film poster
Directed byLadj Ly
Screenplay by
Based onLes Misérables
by Ladj Ly
Produced by
  • Toufik Ayadi
  • Christophe Barral
  • Damien Bonnard
  • Alexis Manenti
  • Djebril Zonga
  • Issa Percia
  • Al-Hassan Ly
  • Steve Tientcheu
  • Almany Kanoute
  • Nizar Ben Fatma
CinematographyJulien Poupard
Edited byFlora Volpeliere
Music byPink Noise
Distributed byLe Pacte
Release dates
  • 15 May 2019 (2019-05-15) (Cannes)
  • 20 November 2019 (2019-11-20) (France)
Running time
104 minutes
  • French
  • English
  • 2.080.000[1]
  • (≃$2.5 million)
Box office$54.6 million[2]

Les Misérables is a 2019 French crime thriller 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,[3] 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, ethnicities or backgrounds.

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 young people, 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 the local community leader 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 person 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 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 group 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, gets 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 young people, 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 young people, 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 humans. 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
  • Nazar Ben Fatma as La Pince
  • Raymond Lopez as Zorro
  • Jeanne Balibar as The Commissioner


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.[4]


The film had its world premiere at the Cannes Film Festival on 15 May 2019.[5] Shortly after, Amazon Studios acquired U.S. distribution rights to the film.[6] It also screened at the Toronto International Film Festival on 10 September 2019.[7] It was released in France on 20 November 2019 by Le Pacte.[8] It was released in the United States on 10 January 2020.[9]


Box office[edit]

By December 31st 2019, 1,7 million tickets had been sold for Les Misérables in France. It grossed $330,181 in the United States and Canada and $18,8 million in other territories for a worldwide total of $19.2 million,[2] against a production budget of about $2.5 million.[1]

Critical response[edit]

As of October 2021, 88% of the 191 reviews compiled on review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes are positive, with an average rating of 7.6/10. 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."[10] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 78 out of 100, based on 35 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews."[11]

Political reactions[edit]

Le Journal du dimanche revealed that Emmanuel Macron was "upset by the accuracy" of Les Misérables, so much so that he "asked the government to hurry to find ideas and act to improve living conditions in the banlieues".[12] Jacques Dion, in Marianne, said that "[Macron] must never have heard of the Borloo plan [fr] for the banlieues that he himself had abandoned."[13]

People such as Jean-Louis Borloo support the film,[14] and Valérie Pécresse wrote in a tweet: "Proud that the region supported #LesMiserables a real film about the banlieue, which alerts us to the absolute necessity of a plan for the banlieues which does away with ghetto neighbourhoods, with a real ten year strategy!"[14]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Award Date of ceremony Category Recipient(s) Result Ref
Academy Awards 9 February 2020 Best International Feature Film France Nominated
Black Reel Awards February 6, 2020 Outstanding Screenplay Alexis Manenti, Giordano Gederlini and Ladj Ly Nominated
Outstanding International Film France Nominated
British Academy Film Awards April 10, 2021 Best Film Not in the English Language Ladj Ly, Toufik Ayadi and Christophe Barral Nominated
Cahiers du Cinéma January 6,  2020 Best Film Ladj Ly Nominated
Cannes Film Festival May, 2019 Palme d'Or Ladj Ly Nominated
Golden Camera Ladj Ly Nominated
Jury Prize Ladj Ly Won
César Awards February 28, 2020 Best Film Toufik Ayadi, Christophe Barral,

Ladj Ly

Best Director Ladj Ly Nominated
Best Actor Damien Bonnard Nominated
Best Original Screenplay Alexis Manenti, Giordano Gederlini and Ladj Ly Nominated
Best First Film Toufik Ayadi, Christophe Barral, Ladj Ly Nominated
Best Cinematography Julien Poupard Nominated
Best Editing Flora Volpelière Won
Best Music Marco Casanova and Kim Chapiron Nominated
Most Promising Actor Alexis Manenti Won
Djebril Zonga Nominated
Best Sound Arnaud Lavaleix, Jérôme Gonthier, Marco Casanova Nominated
César du Public Ladj Ly Won
Critics' Choice Movie Awards March 7, 2021 Best Foreign Language Film Ladj Ly Nominated
Dallas-Fort Worth Film Critics Association Awards December 16, 2019 Best Foreign Language Film France Nominated
Deauville Film Festival 14 September 2019 Michel d'Ornano Award Ladj Ly Won
Durban International Film Festival 6 August 2019 Best Film Ladj Ly Won
Best Screenplay Ladj Ly Won
El Gouna Film Festival September, 2019 Audience Award Ladj Ly Won
European Film Awards 7 December 2019 European Film Toufik Ayadi, Christophe Barral,

Ladj Ly

European Screenwriter Alexis Manenti, Giordano Gederlini and Ladj Ly Nominated
European Discovery Toufik Ayadi, Christophe Barral, Ladj Ly Won
Globes de Cristal Awards 2020 Best Film Les Miserables Nominated
Golden Globes 5 January 2020 Best Foreign Language Film France Nominated
Goya Awards January 25, 2020 Best European Film Les Miserables - Ladj Ly Nominated
Grand Prix de l'UCC 4 January 2020 Grand Prix de l'UCC Les Miserables - Ladj Ly Nominated
Houston Film Critics Society Awards 2 January 2020 Best Foreign Language Film France Nominated
Independent Film Spirit Awards February 8, 2020 Best International Film France Nominated
Indiewire Critics' Poll 16 December 2019 Best First Feature Les Miserables - Ladj Ly Nominated
Jerusalem Film Festival July, 2019 Best International Film Ladj Ly Won
London Film Critics' Circle Awards 7 February 2021 Foreign Language Film of the Year Ladj Ly Nominated
Lumières Award 27 January 2020 Best Film Les Miserables - Ladj Ly Won
Best Director Ladj Ly Nominated
Best Screenplay Alexis Manenti, Giordano Gederlini and Ladj Ly Won
Best Cinematography Julien Poupard Nominated
Best First Film Ladj Ly Nominated
Most Promising Actor Alexis Manenti Won
Issa Perica Nominated
Palm Springs International Film Festival 2 January 2020 Directors to Watch Ladj Ly Won
Best Foreign Language Film Ladj Ly Nominated
Philadelphia Film Festival October, 2019 Best First Featurey Ladj Ly Nominated
Rotterdam International Film Festival September, 2019 IFFR Youth Jury Award Ladj Ly Won
San Sebastián International Film Festival 2020 City of Donostia Audience Award Ladj Ly Nominated
San Francisco Film Critics Circle 16 December 2019 Best Foreign-Language Film France Nominated
Satellite Awards March 1, 2020 Best Motion Picture, International Film France Nominated
Stockholm Film Festival November, 2019 Best Film Les Miserables - Ladj Ly Nominated

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Les Misérables (2018)". jpbox-office.com (in French). Retrieved 25 May 2021.
  2. ^ a b "Les Misérables (2019)". Box Office Mojo. IMDb. Retrieved 25 May 2021.
  3. ^ "Bavure de Montfermeil : les deux policiers réintégrés" (in French). 24 November 2008. Retrieved 13 June 2020.
  4. ^ Lemercier, Fabien (3 October 2018). "Ladj Ly's Les Misérables enters post-production". Cineuropa.org. Retrieved 18 April 2019.
  5. ^ "The Screenings Guide 2019". 9 May 2019. Retrieved 9 May 2019.
  6. ^ Wiseman, Andreas (17 May 2019). "Cannes Buzz Movie 'Les Misérables' Sells To Amazon For U.S." Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved 18 December 2019.
  7. ^ Lang, Brent (23 July 2019). "Toronto Film Festival: 'Joker,' 'Ford v Ferrari,' 'Hustlers' Among Big Premieres". Variety. Retrieved 18 December 2019.
  8. ^ "Les Misérables". Le Pacte. Retrieved 18 November 2019.
  9. ^ Obenson, Tambay (23 October 2019). "'Les Misérables' Trailer: Paris Is Burning in France's 2020 Oscar Entry". IndieWire. Retrieved 18 December 2019.
  10. ^ "Les misérables (2019)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango. Retrieved 10 October 2021.
  11. ^ "Les Misérables Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved 18 December 2019.
  12. ^ Toussay, Jade (19 November 2019). ""Il ne pourra pas dire qu'il n'était pas au courant": le réalisateur des "Misérables" se félicite que Macron ait vu son film sur les banlieues". Le HuffPost (in French). Retrieved 21 August 2020.
  13. ^ Dion, Jack (21 November 2019). ""Les Misérables", ce n'est pas (que) du cinéma". Marianne (in French). Retrieved 21 August 2020.
  14. ^ a b Dolbois, Maëlys (22 November 2019). "Seine-Saint-Denis. Le film Les Misérables, de Ladj Ly, serait le début d'une trilogie sur la banlieue". actu.fr (in French). Retrieved 21 August 2020.

External links[edit]