3 Stars — Thought-Provoking

The damage caused by incest is made all the more painful when the mother knows of the abuse and yet doesn’t protect her daughter. But when the mother blames her daughter for the father’s behavior and cruelly attacks her for years, the emotional, mental and spiritual destruction is revolting. That is the fictional tale created by Sapphire and put on film by director Lee Daniels in Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire.

As the lengthy title implies, Sapphire (born Ramona Lofton) has agendas in her fictional tale. Those agendas cause this horrific story to lose some of its authenticity as the extraneous threads feel inserted into the fabric of the story. That is not to say the film is ineffective or the story is not moving, though it is purposefully depressing.

The story focuses on a 16-year-old girl ironically named Precious (Gabourey “Gabby” Sdibe) who is pregnant with her second child by her biological father. Her mother, Mary (Mo’Nique), is a cruel woman whose disappointments and anger are focused and unleashed on her daughter.

When the school recommends that Precious transfer to an alternative school since she is reading on a second-grade level and is once again pregnant, Mary ridicules Precious and tells her that her only option is to get welfare. Precious does both, and by doing so, two very healing relationships are brought into her life.

The first is her new teacher, Mrs. Rain (Alicia Keys). Rain has a small class of young people for whom a normal school experience was not working. Discovering that Precious can’t read, Rain begins a regimen of reading and writing that empowers her intellectually and emotionally. A part of the healing comes from the other students in the class, who accept Precious into their hearts as well.

The other relationship is with her social worker, Mrs. Weiss (Mariah Carey). Weiss is a savvy counselor who wins Precious’ trust and empowers her when the baby is born to get away from the abuse of her mom. It is also in this counseling setting that the true reason for her mother’s narcissistic abuse is uncovered.

Though it’s difficult to watch and painfully depressing, the film nevertheless exposes some of the deep pains of young people whose families are destroying them with abuse. Overwhelmed by the abuse and convinced of their lack of worth, such young people do not have the courage or take the opportunities to find a way out unless someone helps.

In this film, it was a social worker and a teacher who made the difference, but in reality, it is all of our responsibility to be aware and available for those who need our help. That is an agenda worth pushing.


» Have you ever known a person who was abused by their parent(s)? What did you do to assist them? What was the outcome?

» The love that the other young mother in her class extended to Precious was healing. Do you think this would happen in real life? Why or why not?

» Films with agendas — of whatever purpose — change the nature of the story. Do you think such agendas should be made obvious by the advertisers of a film or left for the audiences to discover? Why?

— Cinema in Focus is a social and spiritual movie commentary. Hal Conklin is former mayor of Santa Barbara and Denny Wayman is pastor of Free Methodist Church, 1435 Cliff Drive. For more reviews, visit www.cinemainfocus.com.