I almost never cry in movies, and I wasn't expecting to cry in Les Miserables. I ran into a neighbor outside the theater and she warned me, "Bring some tissues." So I stuffed a napkin in my pocket, expecting I'd more likely need it for my allergies.
And I made it though almost the entire three-hour epic without crying. I didn't cry when poor Fantine died, or when Cosette was singing her sad little songs, or even when little Gavrosh got gunned down.
No, it was at the very end, when Jean Valjean is an old man and he's reflecting on his life, all he's suffered, and Marius calls him a saint, and it cuts to the old priest singing, "To love another person is to see the face of God." And Valjean breaks down and you can see in his tired eyes all the pain of his life, and the beauty born out of that pain, and he realizes the answer to the question he keeps asking himself, "Who am I?"
That's when I lost it. And no, I'm not going to tell you the answer to that question, because the answer cannot be put into words. It's in his eyes. I cried for the old man who lived and suffered through everything, and kept going, without fully understanding why. I cried because I felt, in that scene, he understood.
And it wasn't sadness that I felt. It was those other kind of tears, the tears that come when some deep wordless truth hits you in your gut, and maybe that truth is cliche or sentimental, but to paraphrase the late great David Foster Wallace (who knew something about suffering), "Some cliches become cliches because they are true, and ghastly deep."