Truly Miserable: 5 Of The Most Tearjerking Scenes From Les Miserables

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Les Miserables has had a long-standing reputation of turning people into miserable crying wrecks – as the title of the book/musical/movie suggests. Everywhere I looked there were people gloating – yes gloating – of their experiences of crying so hard that their eyes were burning in pain. Personally, I smugly brushed these comments aside as I knew I would walk out of the theater completely unscathed, ready to critique the film based on the writing, acting, and whatever else I could muster. After all, I’m the kid who didn’t even cry on The Lion King – let alone feel any sort of remorse for it – so what could this movie do to a man with no heart?

It gave me one is what it did. And the pain of suddenly having feelings was all too much for me to handle. Not only did I cry, I cried four times, which was completely unfathomable to me before I sat down for this treacherous movie. How could this happen? I looked around trying to cover the waterfalls coming from my eyes and was blinded by the glisten of tears from everyone else’s faces as well. I was safe. All I could do was continue marveling at the beauty of the movie while laughing at myself for breaking down.

The following are five of the many scenes that struck a chord in my newfound heart. I previously said I had cried only four times and while that remains true, one of the scenes on this list deserves its spot due to how emotionally driven it was. Many of you will be able to predict the list, but I’ll go one step further and try to explain the pools under our feet after watching this movie. The only thing I ask is to refrain from crying just by the mere mention of these tragic scenes.

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5. Empty Chairs At Empty Tables

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“…where my friends will sing no more.”

The dust settles, the bodies are cleared, and all that’s left is poor Marius weeping over the realization that his “friends are dead and gone.” Next to Jean Valjean, Marius was the most fleshed out character driven only by his desire for Cosette and his desire for a revolution. Though sounding a bit like Kermit the Frog with his singing voice, Eddie Redmayne’s performance from his fall for Cosette to the fall of his comrades was for lack of better word – captivating. He was the furthest thing from wooden and acted like a character from that era going through the troubles of a real person madly in love. Those innocent – yet creepy – stares he gave Cosette when he first saw her were so effective that I felt Marius was looking at me the entire time.

Which is why this scene was so sad to begin with. Marius had a journey and a story with a beginning and an end. If people could find someone to connect to, Marius would definitely be a frontrunner. He wasn’t a character in this movie, he was a person sitting in front of us, which is why a simple song without a blasting orchestra was so effective. Coupled with the camera’s love for being super close to each actor, “Empty Chairs At Empty Tables” was heartbreaking because it felt real. And come on, it was the “send off” song for Enjolras and the rest of Marius’ friends, characters who deserved a song to begin with.

This was the scene where I didn’t cry, but I was sure damn close.

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4. Fantine’s Fall

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“…as they turn your dream to shame.”

Poor Fantine. All she wanted to do was dream a dream where life would be worth living. As the “bookends” to Les Miserables, Fantine’s character is of the utmost importance even though her role was so minimal in presence and of course screentime, but so much happens in those few precious moments when her character “fell from grace,” I couldn’t help but shed a few tears. In fact, this was where the tears started for me and this is where I laughed at myself for letting it happen.

Fantine starts off as an innocent character trying to support her child. Nothing is quite as heartwarming as a mother caring for her child and that hasn’t changed even to this day. When Fantine is kicked out and forced to live on the streets, it only got worse as you really felt horrible for her. Finally, when she resorted to prostitution to afford paying the Thenadiers for Cosette’s care, it was over for me and for everyone else. I mean what I’m going to say next in a very serious tone: since women are mostly sexualized in any sort of entertainment, Fantine’s fall was effective because she was at the lowest point of sex you could get. It wasn’t her character that made the tears fall, it was the idealization and the way Fantine fit so perfectly well.

Fantine says it the best. She had a dream her life would be so different from the hell she was living. The powerful performance by Anne Hathaway – which just might get her that Academy Award – was perfectly timed to enhance the audience’s vulnerability. And my oh my did it work.

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3. A Little Fall Of Rain

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“…and you will keep me close.”

Eponine came and went almost as fast as Fantine did. Her role wasn’t nearly as important as Fantine or Marius’, but the thing she has going for her more than anything else is a relationship with the audience. Much like Marius, Eponine is seen as a character who many can connect with, especially the target audience for a movie like this: women. Unlike Marius, she doesn’t get what she wants in the end and only blindly chases her one true love – not unlike rabid Justin Bieber fans.

So when she does the only thing she can to have Marius notice her, the audience reacts to her death, but also her cries of happiness now that she is finally sleeping in Marius’ embrace at last. Had she not sacrificed her life, she would have truly been “on her own.” As Eponine’s “send off” song, “A Little Fall Of Rain” is riddled with a bittersweetness that reflects her character. From the sweeping melody to the final word being sung by Marius, everything was so perfect it could make the flowers grow.

I would also like to commend Samantha Barks on a very successful transition from stage to film. As one of the only true Broadway/West End actors, she deserves a lot more praise than she is given.

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2. Fantine’s Death

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“…and I’ll see her when I wake.”

Some of you may chastise me for placing Fantine’s death ahead of “I Dreamed A Dream,” but I will tell you that her signature song made this moment all the more horrible – in the best way possible of course. Fantine had given up on life and the only thing left for her was death. However, when Jean Valjean appeared and offered her and her daughter a better life, the dream she dreamed was not killed after all. She was given a second chance and the idealization of her character was realized even more.

She was saved from the lowest point of sex and was allowed to be the virtuous mother she – and the audience – yearned for her to be. And yet, she died only wanting to see Cosette one last time. Of course I knew she would die, but just like that she fulfilled everything she set out to do. I felt like I was watching a Disney movie, complete with the death of the mother, but this time, I actually cried.

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1. The Entire Epilogue

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“It is the future that they bring when tomorrow comes.”

On this page, I write my last confession. Read it well, for I at last am crying my goddamn eyes out. Seriously, could there have been a sadder scene? I was crying during the previous three scenes, but it was the entire epilogue where I lost complete control and was blubbering like a little baby. Yes I knew Jean Valjean would die – I didn’t read the book, but I knew the story to some extent – but that didn’t help in the slightest. In fact, it made it worse because I was dreading this moment.

Unlike Marius, Eponine, and Fantine, Jean Valjean was effective due to his character and his character alone. He wasn’t necessarily anyone the audience could connect with and there was no real ideal to his character, he was simply the protagonist of a story come to an end. His death couldn’t have been anywhere but the end as he needed ample time to prove his weakness, his strengths, and his bravery.

The movie also made a very smart change to the original lyrics and put emphasis on them to really make sure every single audience member understood the point of Valjean’s story, a story of “a man who only learned to love when you [Cosette] were in his care.” With that line, Valjean is understood. Letting Fantine be the only one to send Valjean to Heaven was smart as well – the original had Fantine and Eponine guide him.

And then the very last scene, the one with the buildings…and the people…asking you if you hear them sing…was just…………I’m going to stop now because I’m tearing up just thinking about it.

*cries*

Did Les Miserables dehydrate your body with all the tears as well? Let us know!

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  • http://www.facebook.com/brusselstarlight Shawn Stipe

    Don’t forget that even though The bishop did not sing in the epilogue, his presence at Valjean’s death was also very touching.

  • Armani

    what about little Gavroche?

  • Nyssa

    I’ve watched the movie twice and the part where I cry the mostis when Javert sees Gavroche’s body and puts the medal on it. Every time I see that, I get up and grab a box of tissues…or 2

  • Hannah

    For me, it’s right after A Little Fall of Rain, when you see Gavroche crying. It isn’t mentioned in the musical or the stage version, but Gavroche is a Thenardier. Eponine is his sister. So when he starts crying, it’s because he just saw his sister die.