Review-Lite: Les Misérables (2020)

Damien Bonnard, Alexis Manenti and Djebril Zonga in Les Misérables

Ladj Ly’s Les Misérables is a deeply personal film set in the apartment blocks of parisian suburb of Monterfermeil, Ly’s own childhood home. Set over the course of two days, Les Misérables follows newly transferred police officer Stéphane Ruiz (Damien Bonnard) as he is assigned to keep the peace in Monterfermeil along with two other officers, the self proclaimed cowboys of the area. Along the course of the film’s run, Ly ratchets up tension between the various factions, showing how over the course of the day deep seated issues of religion, class and power can create a tinderbox ready to go up in flames. Ly delicately portrays a neighbourhood in limbo, stuck in the same self destructive cycle because of police thinking they know better, politicians just trying to plaster over crises and a community too scared to stand up. Not only actively bringing back flashes of the kind of unrest seen in 2005 during the Paris riots but also calling for change in the way we educate and inform the people around us, Ly’s past history as a documentary filmmaker suits this darkly real story, one that is fast paced and focused, shot in the style of reality cop shows without the desire to paint its subjects kindly, instead honestly, a call to arms for lasting societal change. Ly’s film is a boiling pot of conflicting ideals, mistakes and good intentions mixed in among dangerous self interests. Complex and inviting, Les Misérables begs to be watched again and again, if only for the sole hope that something might change for the better.


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