Because of its gritty subject matter, I initially resisted seeing Precious. As you no doubt know by now Precious is the story of an illiterate African-American teen-ager, abused physically and mentally by her own mother and sexually by her father.
Pregnant with her second child at sixteen, Precious is sent to an alternative high school where she is placed in a small class of troubled young teen-age girls. Precious is saved from a life of despair and alienation by a caring teacher who asks Precious and the other students to keep a journal, each day writing their thoughts, feelings and events in their lives. In a very real sense, the class is group therapy. “I’m gonna break through or someone’s gonna break through to me,” Precious says early in the film. The class is the catalyst for her breakthrough/transformation.
By writing her life, Precious, in fact, “rights” her life. She not only learns to read and write but creates a network of friends that love and support her. After giving birth to a son and reunited with her daughter, she now has her own family. While working on a GED, she and her children live in a half-way house. Precious’ story is a story of triumph.
How many illiterate children are there like Precious? If they are illiterate, they are likely to be innumerate as well. Illiterate/innumerate teen-agers drop out of school. They take low paying jobs. They populate our prisons. The consequences to society are great.
We need alternative high schools especially for pregnant teen-agers. At risk teen-agers not only have children when very young but have more children, perpetuating a cycle of poverty and despair.
This is a breakthrough film. Mo’Nique is fearless in her depiction of the abusive mother. She says she accepted the role to raise awareness of sexual abuse. A victim of sexual abuse herself, she said playing this role was therapeutic. Gabourey Sidibe inhabits Precious to such a degree that you feel as though you’re watching a documentary rather than a film. Extraordinary performances by both!