A ‘Precious’ Review…

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By Patrick Smiley on 27.3.2024

A ‘Precious’ Review…

Precious

dir. Lee Daniels

Written by: Geoffrey Fletcher (screenplay) Saphire (novel)

starring Gabourey Sidibe, Mo’Nique, Paula Patton, Mariah Carey

109 mins

USA

Lee Daniel’s ‘Precious’, based on the novel ‘push’ by Sapphire, is the story of an obese teenage girl from Harlem who is the subject of habitual abuse. Precious, played by first time actress Gaborey Sidibe, is raped by her father, by whom she has two children. She is frequently beaten, force fed and berated by her jealous mother (played by American comedienne Mo’Nique). Precious, singled out for her math skills, is then moved to an alternative school where she encounters a kind hearted teacher bizarrely named, Blu Rain (Paula Patton). Ms. Rain helps to improve Precious’ reading skills, encourages her to write every day, and puts her on the right path. It may sound trite, but ‘Precious’ makes for compelling viewing.

The story is relentlessly bleak. Precious refers to herself as “ugly black grease to be washed from the street” without irony. She says she is “looking up… for a piano to fall”. Every time you feel that her life cannot possibly get any worse, we are then shown new horrors; the violence of the mother, and particularly the stairwell scene, is enough to have viewers hiding behind hands or wishing to jump through the screen. The candid confessions of Precious to Ms Rain and to her counsellor Ms Weiss (Played by Mariah Carey) will have eyes welling up. Uncomfortable scenes involving Precious’ Down’s syndrome daughter, whom they name ‘Mongo’, short for Mongoloid, or the mothers ignorance of HIV and Aids serve to highlight the lack of an education which they are not afforded.

However, interspersed between the gritty realism come sweet reprieves. Precious escapes her ill treatment, imagining herself a red carpet celebrity, handsome love interests, and wholesome choral singing where she is welcomed, wanted, and loved. These dream sequences, though somewhat hokey, offer hope amidst the heartache. Precious finds that she is loved. Classroom sass from newfound friends and displays of human kindness such as Nurse John (Lenny Kravitz) change a sullen Precious to a smiling one. Good things can happen and Precious displays indomitable spirit to the end.

Thematically it is difficult for the majority to relate to a story like Precious, and the result is often split. If not admired, then such tales can feel far too laboured, too unrealistic. Others believe that this type of portrayal is negative to those it wishes to show compassion towards. Such a reading of Precious would be unfair. This is a film worthy of its Oscar nomination (unlike ‘The Blind Side’). ‘Precious’ is a harrowing story with stunning performances; especially from Mo’Nique and even from Ms Carey. Daniels tackles controversial subjects and commands a fixed eye in the process. A spotlight is shone upon abuse and neglect and viewers are left to ponder the horrific circumstances some people have to endure. ‘Precious’ mirrors the courage of its eponymous hero and triumphs through sheer perseverance, offering hope where often there is none, whilst being utterly enthralling throughout. This film may be a tough watch but some things are worth enduring.

8/10



Comments

  • Precious, amongst many other great films out this year, is a reminder of how lucky we are to have the Gulbenkian!

    By website-enterta… on 27.3.2024

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