Home  Contact Phil


Phil Mellows is a freelance journalist living in Brighton




Director Lee Daniels (2009)

Precious is not the film I expected at all. At 16 Claireece ‘Precious’ Jones (Gaboury Sidebe) is pregnant with her second child – by her absent father. She waits like a slave on her mother and gets nothing but abuse back. At school she hides in the back row and scowls, peering out at a world she has no part of through eyes that are no more than slits. Behind them she dreams she is white, blonde and thin. A longshot even for dreams.

She is set up for victimhood. But from the opening fantasy scene we sense that Precious is going to get through this. We still tense up waiting for the crash. But Precious is too bright, too strong. She’s an all-American heroine in a sumo suit, smiting injustice and fighting her corner.

There is a cartoon quality to the film. This is grim reality displaced just slightly into a world coloured by the fantastic. Although it strikes me that the three films I watched before this, The White Ribbon, The Road and 
A Prophet
, were almost colourless. So perhaps I’m over-sensitised. But the dialogue, too, is heightened prose. Not easy to follow but shot through with great, knowing, funny lines.

Realism is a fictional construct, not an actual reflection of reality, and the film distorts that convention in order to twist despair into hope.

When Precious’s mum, Mary (Mo’Nique) yells her abuse it’s like a rap, with the cadences of poetry. Her social worker, Mrs Reiss, turns out to be Mariah Carey - sans make-up, a revelation, and her nurse, John, Lenny Kravitz.

Taken on at a special school (student-teacher ratio a healthy 6:1), her classmates are witty and interesting, her teacher the impossibly beautiful ‘straight-up lesbian’ Blue Rain (Paula Patton).

She teaches her semi-literate pupils to write through their troubles. About three quarters of the way in, this takes us dangerously close to Dead Poets’ Society (not that I’ve ever been, as I reckon I’ll be sick).

But the final scene is stunning, as Mary tells a story so terrible that Mrs Reiss just gets up and walks away. Well-meaning social services has no answer to this.

Against the odds Precious is a remarkable picture that stands outside the stream. It’s one of those films that, if they try to do it again, you just know it will be awful.

February 9, 2010

Back to Reviews




Writing... Journalism... Research... Awards Judging... Pub Business Advice... Pub Crawls
Contact Phil