“‘Precious’ is an ode to refusing to die…” [Leonard Pitts Jr.]

She is a girl struggling to live an unlivable life, 16 years old, illiterate, sexually abused by both parents, mother of two children (one with Down syndrome) sired by her father, physically and verbally beaten down by her monster of a mother and yet, somehow unable to give in to the idea that she is nothing and nobody.

She is that invisible girl, the one we decline to see because she doesn’t look like Halle, enunciate like Condi, inspire like Oprah, doesn’t ratify our faith in the inevitability of happy endings. There are more of them than we would care to know. They are not just girls, not just poor, not just black.

They are incest victims in silent suffering, gay boys abandoned by their families, girls sold into prostitution by their mothers, 12-year-olds at home caring for 6-year-olds because nobody’s seen the 35-year-old in days. They are high school graduates who cannot read their own diplomas. They are children–“our” children–failed by families and failed again by overburdened social agencies whose job is to catch them before they fall.

They are children we never see until it’s a police lineup. They do not appear in music videos. They are not shown in toothpaste commercials. They do not resemble the idealized, smiling, fresh-scrubbed and happy face beamed out to us on 500 channels 24/7.

No, they look like Precious, struggling to read, struggling to surmount or even survive, struggling to live the unlivable. And every once in a while, doing it.

There is a scene wherein Precious faces a mirror and sees her ideal looking back: beautiful, blonde, white. Later, she enters a building and there’s a mirrored wall. And she looks and sees finally, only, herself.

In that juxtaposition of growth lies the soul of a remarkable film. If Jack White doesn’t see it, that’s fine. But one hopes the invisible children will. They’ll find in it a rare reminder that they do, indeed, exist.

And that they are precious, too.



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