I was glad that my prior reluctance to watch the film, which was due to having heard that it was over two hours long and a musical set many years back, was not as strong as my curiosity: what is there in this story that has given birth to such wonderful and timeless songs as I Dreamed a Dream and On My Own?
It is a story of redemption and the lengths people will go through for love and duty against the backdrop of the French Revolution.
At the center of the story are two men – Jean and Javert – who have crossed paths on the way to moral discovery. It is definitely the most intriguing concept of the film. The rest seem to be the stuff of what most Filipino movies are made of – love, situations of maltreatment, prostitution, swindlers, and lots of tears and drama.
Jean Valjean suffered a 19 year imprisonment sentence for no less than stealing a loaf of bread to feed his nephew. The unjust gravity of the misery he was put through for such a dismal cause only made him a wretched soul with hatred. But after being shown generosity and compassion by a bishop who gave him shelter once he was freed and from whom he still stole pieces of silver, he vowed to no longer be branded a thief and start over as an honest man. Unlike him, prison guard, Javert (Russell Crowe) does not the past stay in the past, and seeks to lock Jean once more in keeping with his civil duties – still believing that those who had done wrong should not be pardoned. After a few narrow escapes from Javert years later, Jean is finally given the opportunity to kill the man after him, but as he has vowed, he reconsiders killing Javert and lets him go. Jean’s kindness makes Javert unable to decide between his civil and moral duties. He has been pardoned by a man who had more reason not to pardon him. He is thus driven to commit suicide.
I’d have to say this is the first foreign film I have watched with too much drama which I thought only Filipinos could really pull off. It was something new to see for a foreign film. All this time I thought only Filipino actors can cry real tears. But watching Anne Hathaway’s heartbreaking performance of “I Dreamed a Dream,” I ate my words. It is definitely my favorite moment of the film. Moreover, the fact that the lines are sung and the emotions anchored in the melody and lyrics makes the movie a heart-tugging drama.