- Written by Belinda Elliott
- Category: Arts & Entertainment
- Published: 27 March 2019
Marathon begins June 2 at 11:00 a.m.
A blockbuster novel for over 150 years comes vividly to life in award-winning screenwriter Andrew Davies’ multi-layered retelling of Les Misérables by Victor Hugo. This enthralling television event (not a musical) airs in six episodes.
Dominic West (The Affair, The Wire) stars as Jean Valjean, the most famous fugitive in literature, with David Oyelowo (Selma, Small Island) as his relentless pursuer, Javert. Lily Collins (Rules Don’t Apply; Love, Rosie) appears as the tragic seamstress, Fantine; Ellie Bamber (Nocturnal Animals) plays her adolescent daughter, Cosette; Olivia Colman (The Favourite) and Adeel Akhtar (Unforgotten) are Cosette’s cruel overseers, the Thénardiers; and Josh O'Connor (The Durrells in Corfu) is the student and reluctant revolutionary Marius, who falls in love with Cosette at first sight.
One of the longest and most engaging novels ever written, with a plot that is as relevant today as in the socially tumultuous 19th century, Les Misérables is a challenging story to condense. But in a triumph of scripting, Masterpiece veteran screenwriter Davies (Pride & Prejudice, Bleak House) preserves Hugo’s intricate plotting, striking historical vignettes, powerful themes, and evocative characterizations, producing an epic television experience that is worthy of the original novel.
Les Misérables opens after the Battle of Waterloo in 1815 and the defeat of Napoleon by the English and their allies, a quarter of a century after the French Revolution. For most of that quarter century, Valjean has been serving a sentence of hard labor for stealing a loaf of bread. On his release, he immediately resorts to petty crime, risking re-arrest and a life sentence.
After this unpromising start, Valjean begins his difficult journey to redemption. But always lurking in the background is his former jailer Javert, determined to bring him to justice for breaking parole and robbing a child. Establishing himself under a new name in a provincial town, Valjean prospers as a businessman and is eventually appointed mayor. One day, he gives work to a needy young woman, Fantine, who hides the fact that she is the unwed mother of a child named Cosette. As the plot unfolds, the stories of mother and daughter become inextricably entwined with that of the fugitive. The story reaches its climax during the Paris Uprising of 1832 and features an iconic escape scene through the sewers of Paris, which made the underground tunnels one of the most famous engineering marvels in the world.
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