On the night of our first official snow storm in Boston this past weekend, my husband and I ventured out to Framingham's AMC Premium theater to see the new film adaptation of Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables.
Set in 19th century France, the story is about redemption, love, law, revolution–and ultimately the saving grace of God. A timeless message as we enter 2013. And even if you're not a big fan of musicals, the themes resonate.
The vast majority of the lines are delivered in song and sung live by the actors, with stand-out performances by Hugh Jackman, who plays the lead character, Jean Valjean, and Anne Hathaway, who plays the smaller yet vital role of his former factory-worker, Fantine.
In one of the most anticipated moments of the film (certainly for the broadway musical fans), Valjean implores:
“God on high, hear my prayer, in my need you have always been there…Bring him home, bring him home.”
My favorite rendition of “Bring Him Home” is by English tenor Alfie Boe, although Jackman delivers an emotionally riveting version on screen. For those unfamiliar with the song, you can watch Alfie Boe’s version here:
Valjean is labeled by his past after being imprisoned for stealing a loaf of bread to feed his starving family. Even when he’s released from prison after 19 long years, he’s a number more than a name, haunted and relentlessly pursued by Javert, the former prison guard turned police inspector. Yet through a new life of love and forgiveness Valjean finds his way forward, with both hope and redemption marking his path.
How many of us feel chained by an unfair sentence, released and yet never truly free? It’s a familiar refrain with addictions, where people are labeled as alcoholics, food addicts, smokers, etc. long after the habit has been kicked. But rather than feeling endlessly pursued by these labels, isn’t it possible to leave them behind for good and accept innocence as a permanent part of one’s identity?
The real home-coming is in recognizing our ability to love ourselves and others without conditions and without the labels that would weigh us down. This is an answered prayer, an echo of the Psalmist’s affirmation that answers Valjean’s request:
” . . . God has heard me; He has given heed to the voice of my prayer” (Psalms 66: 19).
The film's riveting portrayal of the themes and characters in Hugo's classic tale moved many, as audience members emerged red-eyed and silently walking through a blanket of snow to their cars.
With the hope of answered prayer and the trust of rejecting what isn’t good and accepting what is good in my life, I enter this new year.
What about you?
Ingrid lives in Framingham, where she and her husband manage three busy kids, a Lab who's sniffed every trail at Callahan and a ragdoll cat. She blogs on spirituality and health and is also a Christian Science practitioner. You can see more on her website "Breaking Bread" at masshealthblog.com.