This weekend I watched the movie “Precious” based on the novel Push written by the poet Sapphire. Sapphire (and let’s just all work together to get over the people-who-change-their-name-to-a-one-word-gem thing here) has created a masterwork: a riveting, believable story about emotional, physical, and sexual abuse, poverty, and racism. She portrays a broad range of the effects of trauma: the dissociation, low self-esteem, isolation and addiction that are usually secondary effects of trauma but rarely recognized as such by teachers, neighbors and authority figures. (Trust a poet to convey emotional and sociological depths that Hollywood writers usually ignore). Her story transcends the African-American experience to become the universal trauma experience.
Precious is an enormously obese sixteen year old child pregnant for the second time by her father. Her mother is perfectly evil. Precious is illiterate and practically mute, but has a spark of intelligence that survives her dire circumstances. You might not expect this scenario to be uplifting, but it is.
I won’t give away the full story line here, but I will say that even if you normally have no interest in psychological portrayals or social justice issues….rent it. Once in a while, adjectives fail me and I am left trying to stammer out an explanation of the intensity of my feelings. (This reminds me of an author who once made fun of writing workshops. He said, “When writers sit around critiquing other people’s work by saying things like, “I just can’t put it into words” I want to say, “Perhaps you should find another job then, eh? Because clearly you are worthless at this one.”)
Precious is more than just an entertaining film—it’s an important one.
The author of the book Push