A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Few positive messages with even those tasked with upholding the law abusing their power and showing a lack of compassion. Friends stick up for each other but often in the wrong way.
Positive Role Models
While certain characters are deserving of sympathy, the same characters are also responsible for loathsome behavior. Policeman Ruiz tries to do his best for the community he serves, but at times he fails to intervene when his colleagues cross the line and worse. Fellow police officers Chris and Gwanda often behave as if they are above the law, particularly Chris. They put their career ahead of the welfare of others. Teenager Issa, along with his friends, frequently break the law with petty crimes. But when Issa is the victim of police brutality they resort to violent and dangerous behavior. Other adult characters appear to run various parts of the city through fear and illegal means, which the police often choose to ignore. There is a lot of diversity amongst the cast, but there are a few female characters who take a central role. Although the Police Commissioner is a woman. A group of Muslim characters try to encourage kids in the neighborhood to behave by attending mosque.
Violence & Scariness
Police brutality includes a teen being shot in the head with a riot gun. They survive but are unconscious and suffer severe bruising to the face. Teens are also shoved against walls and floor by the police. Teens throw rocks and other objects at the police. A shot is fired into the air. Police officer accidentally tear gasses themselves. A stand-off between two rival groups include people with baseball bats and even an axe. Teen is placed in a cage with an aggressive lion who snarls and wields its claws at them. A riot breaks out which includes tear gas, grenades, and Molotov cocktails. A car is smashed up and fireworks are deliberately fired at it and police officers. A character is beaten with bats while on the floor and dragged down some stairs. Three police officers become trapped in a building with one suffering a severe cut to the face and eye after a bottle is thrown at them. Police officer makes sexual references about and to a 15-year-old girl. They then smash a cell phone. A chicken is placed in a room with a lion cub. Although nothing is shown it's presumed the chicken is eaten. Reference to beheadings, people being burned alive, and thrown out of windows, but these are all part of a "joke" between colleagues.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
A teen uses their drone to spy on other teens changing. No nudity is shown. Sexual references are made when characters tease one another. Reference to prostitution.
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Multiple uses of "motherf----r," variants of "f--k," "bastard," "d--khead," "d--k," "bastard," "s--t," "hell," "bitch," "piss," "balls," "dumbass," "damn," "bum," "whore," "a--hole," "p---y," "screw you," "jerking around," "blow job," and "ass." One use of the "N" word. Also "f-g" and "f--got." The term "gypsy" is used on a number of occasion.
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Products & Purchases
A well-known mineral water is ordered in a bar. Reference to Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram, the latter briefly being seen on a cell phone. Scene in a market place where there's reference to counterfeit goods. Characters discuss gambling on a soccer game, but no bets appear to be placed.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Occasional smoking including that of a joint, which is picked up off the floor and smoked. A hookah pipe is seen on a table. Characters are seen drinking beer in the streets, home, and at a bar, but never to excess. Brief reference to drugs including crack and heroin.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Les Misérables is a hard-hitting, but gripping, Oscar-nominated French drama (with English subtitles) with violent scenes and strong language throughout. The movie is a social commentary about the relationship between the police and the communities it serves. There are few positive role models -- and hardly any female characters -- with even the police behaving disgracefully and above the law. Much of the violence is between the police and the residents of a diverse suburb on the outskirts of Paris. This includes brutality on the part of the police. A young teen is shot with a riot gun, which although he survives, he does suffer severe bruising to the face. This leads to a full-scale riot. Objects, including rocks and fireworks, are thrown, in one instance causing a severe injury to someone's eye and face, while another is beaten on the floor with bats before being dragged down the stairs. The language is strong and prominent throughout. There are multiple uses of "f--k," homophobic slurs such as "f--got," and one use of the "N" word. There is occasional smoking including a brief scene where a marijuana joint is picked up off the floor and smoked. A drone plays an important role in the plot, but it is also used by a teenage boy to record girls getting undressed in their rooms, although no nudity is depicted. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
Set just outside of Paris, and loosely based on real events, this uncompromising French drama explores the dynamics and growing tensions between the police and the diverse neighborhood they serve. Les Misérables -- not to be confused with Victor Hugo's 19th century novel, although its presence lingers throughout -- shows the delicate threads that can hold a community together. Bonnard is excellent as "new kid on the block" Ruiz. Initially he watches on as his fellow officers bounce between community overseers to power-abusing overlords. But as the situation escalates, his conscience forces him to step in.
Comparisons to 1995's La Haine -- another superb French drama that tackled similar issues -- are well-founded. But Ladj Ly's feature-length directorial debut is deserving of its own standing. It's to Ly's credit that he can both generate sympathy and detest for the large array of characters. When the movie's final act kicks off, the scenes may be distressing, but you understand how they came about. A tough watch, that shines a light on issues that are all too sadly just as relevant today as they were in 1995. Perhaps even more so.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.