I had today’s post already written. Then I decided to deviate. Last night, with a few of my siblings, I watched the 1998 version of Les Misérables with Liam Neeson. I wanted to watch it again before the musical version comes out and last night was the perfect opportunity.
It’s been a while since I’ve seen this version. While watching it, I remembered an observation that my uncle once made about the film. He said, “Jean Valjean would have never treated Cosette like that.”
If you watch the film, Cosette epitomizes the teenage girl who wants to see the world. She comes across as spoiled and naïve. She sneaks around with Marius—some guy she doesn’t even know—who, my sister called “the perfect example of a stalker.”
When Valjean finds out about it, he gets angry and even hits Cosette. He has turned into an overbearing parent in the name of protecting his daughter. His protection comes across as selfish, motivated by a fear of losing Cosette.
The Valjean of the 1998 film has a more typical fatherly reaction. Most fathers would be angry to find out their daughter was sneaking around. Most fathers who only have a daughter to live for would struggle with a tendency to cling too tightly.
You can’t fault Hollywood for trying to make Valjean more typical and create a relationship between Cosette and Valjean that was a more realistic father-daughter relationship. However, the beauty of Valjean and Cosette’s relationship is that it’s not typical. Valjean would give anything for Cosette and being angry with her is the furthest thing from his new nature. We’ll see later examples of his willingness to sacrifice for her. He will even go so far as to separate himself from her, believing it to be in her best interest.
Valjean, in this way, is less of a typical father and more of an allegorical version of a Heavenly Father.