Les Misérables review – a simmering tale of two cities

Ladj Ly’s César-winning drama explores life on a poor Paris estate as tensions with the police reach boiling pointThe ghosts of Victor Hugo’s downtrodden 19th-century rebels haunt Ladj Ly’s César-winning contemporary urban drama, a streetwise tale of France’s dispossessed masses, brought once again to the brink of rebellion.

Nominated for best international feature at the 92nd Oscars (it lost out to Parasite), it presents a powder-keg portrait of broiling tensions, recalling both the pressure-cooker structure of Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing and even-handed vérité grit of David Simon’s monumental TV series The Wire.

Taking care never to paint its complex characters in simple black-and-white strokes, this slips stealthily from astute observation to urgent action, reminding us of Hugo’s maxim that “there are no such things as bad plants or bad men.

There are only bad cultivators.”We open in a moment of ironic harmony,

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