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Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire

Life is hard. Life is short. Life is painful. Life is rich. Life is... Precious. 

Year: 2009 
Running Time:
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 (XWide) 
Certificate: BBFC 15 Cert – Not suitable for under 15s 
Subtitles: This film is not expected to be subtitled, though this cannot be guaranteed. 
Directed by Lee Daniels 
Starring: Gabourey Sidibe, Mo’Nique, Paula Patton  
An image from Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire

Clareece ‘Precious’ Jones (Sidibe) lives in a world of fantasy. She dreams of eloping with her maths teacher and imagines herself as a star on the red carpet. In reality, she is pregnant for the second time with her own father’s child. She has been kicked out of school and lives with her terrifying and abusive mother (BAFTA winner Mo’Nique), whose sole desire is to watch television and live off the welfare money she claims from the government.

Hope for Precious arrives in the form of Ms. Rain (Patton), the teacher she meets at her new ‘alternative’ school, who is determined to teach her young protégé how to read and write. Precious rapidly improves and her confidence blossoms like never before, until her world is turned upside down once again when she gives birth. Precious vows to be the best mother she can be and to escape her violent, neglectful family. This turns out to be a constant uphill struggle.

Precious in name only, Lee Daniels’s claustrophobic drama is strikingly different from your usual rags-to-riches fodder. The performances are superb: the young Sidibe is a captivating screen presence, rivalled only by Mo’Nique’s stirring turn. A barely recognisable Mariah Carey surprises as Precious’s weary social worker, whilst Lenny Kravitz makes a decent turn as a male nurse who takes an interest in the beleaguered young mother.

This is not a film about overcoming adversity so much as it is about simply refusing to admit defeat. Daniels would have us believe that the struggle is half the victory, but it often seems that whenever there is light at the end of the tunnel for the protagonist, the walls simply cave in around her. This is at times a difficult film to watch, but it is also one of the most rewarding of the past year, and commands respect.

Simon Haley

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Screenings of this film:

2009/2010 Summer Term (35mm)
2009/2010 Summer Term (35mm)