Les Miserables is a triumphant story of love, grace and forgiveness

Les MisLes Miserables. Based on Victor Hugo’s classic novel, for over twenty eight years, Cameron Mackintosh’s production of the original musical has been seen by more than 60 million people in forty-two countries and in twenty-one languages. On Christmas Day, Universal Studios will release the film version this triumphant story of love, grace and forgiveness.

Les Mis is directed by Tom Hooper (“the King’s Speech”) with the music by Claude-Michel Schonberg and lyrics by Herbert Kretzmer. It stars Hugh Jackman (“The Prestige”), Oscar® winner Russell Crowe ( “A Beautiful Mind”) and Anne Hathaway (“The Dark Knight Rises”).

The movie begins in 1815, in Toulon, France. After spending nineteen years in prison for stealing a loaf of bread to feed his sister’s children, Jean Valjean (Jackman) is released. However, he is not truly free; wherever he goes he is required to show papers that label him a dangerous criminal. Valjean despairs of ever finding work or food, until the night a bishop discovers him sleeping in the graveyard of a church. After the priest gives him food and warmth as well as love and dignity and forgiveness, Valjean dedicates his life to the Lord.

Determined to escape the stigma of his past, Valjean breaks his parole and assumes a new identity. Valjean’s old jailer, Inspector Javert (Crowe), vows to pursue the disappeared convict and return him to justice.

Eight years pass and Valjean is now the mayor of Montreuil-sur-Mer and owner of a small factory. Through the jealousy of the other workers and a misunderstanding onValjean’s part, a factory worker, Fantine (Hathaway), loses her job and is reduced to prostitution to provide for her young daughter, Cossette. When Valjean realizes his responsibility in her misfortune, he cares for Fantine, and upon her death, vows to raise Cossette as his own child.

The story fast-forwards to June 1832. Valjean and the now grown-up Cossette (Amanda Seyfried) are living in Paris which is simmering on the verge of revolution. While giving alms to the poor, Cossette sees the handsome young Marius (Eddie Redmayne) gathered with a group of students who are encouraging the people to rebellion. With one glance, the two young people fall in love. When Inspector Javert shows up leading the soldiers, Valjean panics and decides to take Cossette and leave the country. After intercepting a letter from Marius professing his love for Cossette, Valjean is torn between protecting her and allowing his little girl to grow up.

It is not often that you see a movie that is a work of art. Les Mis is visually stunning with an epic feel from the opening scene. The acting is strong, with Jackman and Hathaway giving Oscar-worthy performances. The music feels more operatic than musical, with music being the language of the film and not something to tag onto the end of dialogue. Tom Hooper’s decision to film the actors singing live instead of to playback creates music that is both beautiful and gut-wrenching. After Anne Hathaway sang, “I Dreamed a Dream” the audience at my screening erupted into spontaneous applause. There were several other moments of applause throughout the film, as if the audience had to find a way to release their emotion.

But it was the messages of the film that resonates long after you leave the theater. The juxtaposition of faith; both Javert and Valjean were devout in their beliefs, yet Javert’s was shackled with law and judgment while Valjean’s was filled with love and grace. Javert viewed people as either law-abiding citizens or scum of the earth. Valjean saw them as children of God, to be treated with dignity and compassion, which resonated in the lyrics, “To love another is the see the face of God.”

Les Miserables is rated PG 13 for sexual and suggestive material, violence and thematic elements. It is not gratuitous, but is used to set the tone for certain characters and set up important parts of the story.

For more information, check out the Les Miserables website.