Everything is going wrong

Rewarded with a Jury’s Prize in Cannes, nominated for the Oscars, Ladj Ly’s movie depicts a suburb that is exploding, a metaphor of an unwell France. It apparently even touched President Macron. Impactful!

By Perrine Quennesson

Reading time 3 min.

Les Misérables


A choc in Cannes. That is how it was presented even before the start of its screening. And for once, the local rumor was not lying. Ladj Ly’s Les Misérables is a slap in the face. Better than a punch to finally wake up. Finally.

We follow three anti-crime brigade police officers during their round in the city of Montfermeil. One of them, played by Damien Bonnard, freshly lands from a provincial town. He is the one we will follow all along. But during an arrest, in an atmosphere of smoking barrels, a flash-ball is shot. 

The youth of the suburbs are the new Gavroches

Received like a 2019 version of La Haine, Ladj Ly’s movie pounds the alarm. With a smart direction regularly using drone shots — justified in the narration — it allows us to have some sort of global, panoramic, total vision of the situation. Avoiding to take sides. After a full hour that paints the picture of the city, its inhabitants, a system implemented by the police officers and the communities, the movie shakes this substrate and watches what happens. Which is a country on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Because, though Les Misérables seems to care only about the situations in the suburbs, it actually opens up to a broader question that regard all of France. A France divided in two, that does not communicate, that does not know how to talk anymore and that only see physical violence as the answer to social violence. Especially, and that is were the director commits the most, it shows a conflit of generations. The youth of the suburbs are the new Gavroches, and the wire racks and caddies are the new barricades. It is not Voltaire’s fault if this generation is falling down, but it will get up full of anger. The movie ends with a duel were then tension is more than palpable, the atsmosphere literally unbreathable and Ladj Ly simply puts it this way : we reached that point, what do we do now, a minute away from the catastrophe ?

The movie was produced but the French studio and collective Kourtrajmé, from which also came Romain Gavras’ latest movie Le monde est a toi (find our critique here).

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