When we initially meet the titular heroine of Precious: Based on the Novel "Push" by Sapphire, we can hardly imagine deeper or crueler maws of despair than the domestic environs and daily routine she has to endure. She is clammed up in her own shell barely registering her middle-school surroundings other than when she suddenly lashes out at another student for mocking her about her weight. She is already 16 and still barely passing through middle school in reading and writing literacy. And despite being only 16, she is already pregnant with her second child from incestuous abuse by the hands of her father. Her mother does not treat her much better, as vitriolic words spew out from the mother’s inner, selfish jealousy towards her daughter for “stealing away” her man.
This is the launching point for director Lee Daniels’ film, which starts from the deepest, harshest maws of despair and somehow salvages us to an ultimately rewarding conclusion. The movie does not flinch in its portrayal of pure cruelty and human ugliness with its ruthless intensity and authenticity. What makes it one of the best films of the year is how its moves to an unusually uplifting outcome that is just as authentic by having it come about from our gradual embrace of its lead protagonist’s inner spirit and the courage she finally musters up to break free from the forces that have crushed her for so long.
The heroine is Clarice “Precious” Jones (Gabourey Sidibe), who unsurprisingly has simply emotionally shut down and the only escape she has is in fanciful daydream sequences shot in flashing reds and white lights in which she imagines herself as a famous fashion celebrity in the limelight. In school, the principal, after hearing about her low grades as well as her second pregnancy, decides that she should go to an alternate school called Each One/Teach One where she can attain her GED. Precious’ vitriolic mother, Mary (Mo’Nique), of course, mocks and curses at her seeing that she sees no use for Precious in school and would just rather see her resort to welfare. With a personal encouragement of the school principal who visits her home, however, she sets her mind to attend Each One/Teach One.