Film Review: Precious

Tuesday 26 August 2014 by

Precious, Film

When Precious first appeared, there was a huge attention for its drama and the astounding performance from Gabourey Sidibe. Since then, it has sort of disappeared from the radar. But it was on BBC the other day, and I decided to finally give it a go…

Precious tells the story of 16-year-old Precious in Harlem in the late 1980s, who enrols in an alternative school in the hope it will rescue her from her current life of abuse. Although Precious is pregnant with her second child, and illiterate, she has to start somewhere. Despite all that happens to her (and has happened), Precious is relentlessly positive, and it is her innate sense of goodness that carries her.

This is probably one of those quietly harrowing films that you’re unaware of how truly upsetting it is until you find yourself nearly two hours later in a huddled wreck, weeping your heart out, wondering what the hell happened. It’s unforgiving and brutal and sometimes hard to follow, let alone stomach. But Precious is an absolute delight, as is the rest of the cast, with a razor-sharp wit and camaraderie that feels like true chemistry. This could be boiled down to the usual hard-done-by kid in a coming-of-age story, but it feels like something more than that. It feels authentic and there are no easy-peasy happy endings or neatly wrapped up storylines. It just happens.

You truly invest in Precious and her story, and the heartbreak is all the more keenly felt at the end because it leaves with such a positive note – as it was inevitably going to do, with Precious’ outlook on life. There is an impotent kind of rage throughout the film as you are increasingly angry at what happens to her and no one seems to notice, until Ms Rain (Paula Patton). As soon as Precious steps in to the classroom, you feel the film take a new direction. There is suddenly a moment when Precious is noticed, recognised, listened to, and the door opens for her.

I loved the fact that it didn’t then revolve around the classroom, but continued to focus on Precious. Sidibe’s performance was rightfully applauded. She controls the whole thing with barely discernible effort, able to weave your emotions with the simplest of looks. The rest of the cast merely supports her; and though still brilliant performances, they are outshone. She takes you through her home life, school life, and motherhood as a teenager with barely a whisper of dramatics, and yet it is the most dramatic performance I have seen in a long time.

Other than strongly recommending watching it (but warning you about the emotional turmoil it will cause), I can’t say more about this film. I am so surprised that this has faded back in to nothing again – it feels like it should become an instant classic, talked about over and over again. It feels bigger than the ripples it caused a few years ago – it feels like a tidal wave.

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