Released long after the hype surrounding it has died down in the States, this acclaimed American drama is undoubtedly as gritty as cinema can get to the harsh realism of life.
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Based on the novel Push, Precious tells the harrowing life story of Clareece “Precious” Jones, an African-American teen who seems to have every possible odd stacked against her. Sexually abused by her father and emotionally tormented by her mother since a young age, Precious grows up illiterate and obese, with a Down Syndrome child in tow—fathered by her father, no less. In the few weeks leading up to the birth of her second child, she enrolls into an alternative school and takes the first step towards a better life under the watchful eye of her teacher Ms. Rain (Paula Patton). A dressed down, barely recognizable Mariah Carey also puts in a decent turn as a firm but empathetic welfare counsellor.
Despite the fact that Precious doesn’t follow the typical schmaltzy narrative a la The Blind Side (a good watch in itself still), it doesn’t fail to build up the momentum. Opening with a nauseatingly graphic opening scene, the movie fluctuates between morbidity, humor and fantasy, finally forcing her to the tipping point of self-transformation. There is no missing the underlying message here—that there is nobody who can help you more than yourself.
Gabourey Sidibe has deservedly received much acclaim for her stirring performance as the victim of all victims in this sad tale of abuse and poverty but it is Mo’Nique’s portrayal of the deadbeat mother that plays games with our heartstrings—for while she deserves the topmost position in the parenting hall of shame, we can’t help but feel that she herself is a victim of the very evils she has perpetuated in the life of her daughter.
To be clear, this isn’t exactly a gratifying watch. In fact, the heaviness of the tale (pun totally unintended) will stay with you long after the images have faded from your mind’s eye, but its cliché-free, heartfelt and realistic portrayal of hardship makes this one of the most affecting movies of the year.