Upon first viewing of Precious, I was wary that the film might be about spectacle. We are behind the eyes of an obese African American girl. She’s sixteen and still in Junior High School. She’s pregnant with her second child by her biological father. Her first child has Down Syndrome. And her mother mercilessly abuses her (physically, sexually, emotionally, verbally) at every opportunity. She gets kicked out of school. Then they lose their welfare checks. And even before the film steps into the territories of homelessness, joblessness and HIV I began to wonder if the writer was more interested in punishing her heroine than in redeeming her.

But that was on the first viewing, when the shock of all the suffering blinded me to the humor, poetry, the imagination, and incredible craft of the film. I’d also been blind to the humanity behind every character, which I realized on my second viewing, was at the core of Precious. The strength of the human spirit and the unwavering faith in what tomorrow may heal – those ideas (expressed much more eloquently in the film and not in this essay) are what make Precious almost unbearably moving.

You may recognize some household faces in Precious (Mariah Carey, Lenny Kravitz who do admirable jobs), but the performance that dominates my thinking is the comedian and actress Mo’Nique Imes. I’m certain hers is the best acting performance I’ve seen by a female lead this year.

Even if you fear your stomach will be too weak for this film, go see it anyway. You’ll leave the theater stronger . . . $11.

If you heart Precious:

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