The musical Les Miserable is a Broadway institution within itself. When people heard they were making Les Mis into a movie, many were excited and concerned about how it would translate to the big screen. What I didn’t expect, however, was how it would feel seeing it for the first time since becoming a mother.
I’ve seen Les Mis performed live three times. Once on Broadway and twice with the touring group. Each performance brought a new level of emotional complexity. Les Mis is not a one-trick pony to say the least. So when my husband and I went to see it in the movie theaters, we were bowled over by the direct pain we felt for these children and their tortured parents.
Before we were parents, we imagined how it would feel to know our child was in peril, to reach the point where we would be willing to sell even our bodies to keep our children safe. But imagining what it would be like and actually understanding the depths of what a parent would do are two completely different things.
As we sat in the dark theater, we experienced the pain Anne Hathaway exuded. The lengths she would go including sacrificing her very soul to keep her child safe. It felt like a dagger in my heart.
When Jean Val Jean sang for the safe passage of the boy who had captured his daughter’s heart, we ached at the thought he was willing to lose his daughter to another man rather than deny her love. That is what parental love is about — doing anything to ensure your child’s welfare and happiness.
Before having children, Les Mis felt like a story about suffering and redemption. But seeing it as a parent, I now understand even through all of the suffering and death, this story shows it is love between friends, family and even strangers that makes life worth living.