Australian Council on Children and the Media

Les Miserables

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Not recommended under 13, PG to 15 (Violence: Adult themes, sexual references)

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Les Miserables
  • a review of Les Miserables completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 2 January 2013.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 13 Not recommended due to violence, adult themes and sexual references
Children 13 -15 Parental guidance recommended due to violence, adult themes and sexual references
Children 15 and over OK for this age group

About the movie

This section contains details about the movie, including its classification by the Australian Government Classification Board and the associated consumer advice lines.

Name of movie: Les Miserables
Classification: M
Consumer advice lines: Mature themes, violence and sexual references
Length 158 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

Set in the early 19th Century Les Miserables is a film adaption of Victor Hugo’s book and successful stage play. Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman) has served 19 years in prison for stealing a loaf of bread. He is released on parole but is unable to find a job. He steals some ornaments from a church and is caught by the local police but the merciful priest tells them that they were a gift. Valjean is determined to make use of his reprieve and he manages to change his life around, albeit having broken his parole, to eventually become mayor of the local town.

Inspector Javert (Russell Crowe) has been on the search for Valjean ever since he got away, under the belief that a criminal can never be reformed. Valjean, however, is determined to devote his life to helping others and when one of his factory workers Fantine (Anne Hathaway) loses her job and turns to prostitution in desperation, Valjean promises to take care of her daughter Cossette. When Fantine dies Valjean raises Cossette (Amanda Seyfried) as his own daughter.

Valjean and Cossette are both caught up in the June Rebellion which occurs in 1832. Cossette falls in love with Marius ((Eddie Redmayne), one of the revolutionaries, which puts Valjean in a precarious position. Torn between taking care of Cossette and helping the rebellion, Valjean, who has now been discovered by Javert, must decide whether to run or stay and fight.

Themesinfo

Children and adolescents may react adversely at different ages to themes of crime, suicide, drug and alcohol dependence, death, serious illness, family breakdown, death or separation from a parent, animal distress or cruelty to animals, children as victims, natural disasters and racism. Occasionally reviews may also signal themes that some parents may simply wish to know about.

Poverty; revolution

Use of violenceinfo

Research shows that children are at risk of learning that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution when violence is glamourised, performed by an attractive hero, successful, has few real life consequences, is set in a comic context and / or is mostly perpetrated by male characters with female victims, or by one race against another.

Repeated exposure to violent content can reinforce the message that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. Repeated exposure also increases the risks that children will become desensitised to the use of violence in real life or develop an exaggerated view about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world.

There is some violence in this movie including:

  • Valjean is beaten up by the police and is shown with blood on his face.
  • Javert and Valjean have a sword fight.
  • A cat’s tail is accidentally chopped off.
  • The revolutionary battle scene is particularly bloody and disturbing. Many people are shot and killed, including a young boy. Their bodies are shown lying in pools of blood.
  • Javert is caught and punched unconscious. He is shown with a rope around his neck.
  • Eponine (Samantha Barks), the daughter of the innkeepers who grew up with Cossette is also in love with Marius. She dies trying to save him.
  • The leader of the revolutionaries is shot and falls out of a window upside down and is shown hanging there.
  • Javert finally takes his own life falling from a high ledge into water and lands with a thud on the water’s edge.

Material that may scare or disturb children

Under fiveinfo

Children under five are most likely to be frightened by scary visual images, such as monsters, physical transformations.

Children in this age group are likely to be disturbed by the above-mentioned violence

Aged five to eightinfo

Children aged five to eight will also be frightened by scary visual images and will also be disturbed by depictions of the death of a parent, a child abandoned or separated from parents, children or animals being hurt or threatened and / or natural disasters.

Children in this age group are also likely to be disturbed by the above-mentioned violence

Aged eight to thirteeninfo

Children aged eight to thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic threats and dangers, violence or threat of violence and / or stories in which children are hurt or threatened.

In addition to the above mentioned violent scenes, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children aged eight to thirteen, including the following:

  • The poverty of the people is quite distressing to see – street urchins and people living very rough.
  • The opening scene shows prisoners being used as slaves to pull a ship up out of the sea using ropes. Valjean is made to lift a very heavy log.
  • Men are shown hanging from ropes.
  • Fantine is dying in the hospital and she imagines she sees Cossette.
  • Marius is shot in the battle and Valjean drags his body through sewers to save his life.

Over thirteeninfo

Children over the age of thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic physical harm or threats, molestation or sexual assault and / or threats from aliens or the occult.

In addition to the above mentioned violent scenes, there are some scenes in this movie that could disturb children aged over thirteen, including the following:

  • Prostitutes line the street selling their trade.
  • Fantine sells her hair and has her teeth pulled out for money and she eventually sells her body.

Sexual references

There are some sexual references in this movie, including:

  • Some bawdy scenes in the tavern
  • Prostitutes selling their trade.

Nudity and sexual activity

There is some nudity and sexual activity in this movie, including:

  • Fantine, as a prostitute, has sex with a soldier – no nudity and not too graphic.
  • In a bawdy atmosphere in the tavern, a woman is seen having sex with Santa.

Use of substances

There is some use of substances in this movie, including:

  • There is quite a bit of drinking in the tavern.
  • Drinking and smoking at the revolutionaries’ meeting.

Coarse language

There is some coarse language in this movie, including:

  • bitch
  • slut
  • bastard
  • Christ

In a nutshell

Les Miserables is a highly emotionally charged musical drama. It remains faithful to the story but being on the screen makes it more intense than on a theatre stage. It is likely to be too disturbing for under 13s and some slightly older teens. The story is beautifully portrayed and, while upsetting, the underlying themes of forgiveness and redemption make it truly worthwhile viewing for older teens and adults.

The main messages from this movie are that people can change and redeem themselves after committing crimes. The story is also about faith and forgiveness and justice for all.

Values in this movie that parents may wish to reinforce with their children include:

  • Selflessness
  • Dedication to a cause.
  • Looking after others.
  • The need to stand up against injustice.

 This movie could also give parents the opportunity to discuss with their children attitudes and behaviours, and their real-life consequences, such as:

  • Is a just cause worth dying and killing for?
  • Should Javert have continued his pursuit of Valjean out of a sense of duty?

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