My favorite part of the film, “Precious,” comes near the end. Daughter and mother are seated in an office. The mother, Mary, is being grilled by the child psychologist, Mrs. Weiss, who is attempting to get to the bottom of the daughter Precious’s home life.
Precious, at 16, is overwhelmed. She has two babies sired by her own father. One of them has Downs Syndrome. She also is illiterate, obese, reduced to stealing food when hungry, carries no self-esteem and lives with a monster of a mother. Her future is as black as her skin.
Mary’s days are centered around drinking liquor, watching TV and on occasion donning a hideous wig when the welfare worker comes to visit. To her, Precious is little more than slave labor and a battering ram for Mary’s pent-up rage.
But Mrs. Weiss is relentless and ultimately digs out the truth. Mary, we discover, is more of a monster than we suspect. She was complicit in the sexual abuse of her daughter, abuse that started when Precious was only 3 years old.
As the anguished words flow from Mary’s mouth in a rare moment of clarity, I think back to other words earlier in the film. Precious has just told her alternative-school classmates and teacher about her sordid home life, then she says:
“Now I wonder if everybody go through sumthin — sumthin that leaves a shadow in they lives.”
At that moment, Precious has nailed it. Her problem is not unique. The problem is universal. And not only with girls. We are all warped by our childhoods, by our inter-actions with parents, many of whom do not have a clue to parenting or the meaning of love. But Precious, despite her horror-show of a life, has something most of us never attain.
After hearing her mother’s confession to Mrs. Weiss, Precious says to Mary: “You know, I didn’t realize what you was until this day — even after all those things you did. Maybe I didn’t know no better or maybe I just didn’t want to but I finally see you crystal clear for the first time.
“And I forgive you too . . . but I’ll never see you again. Not even if you dead.”
Precious has had her moment of clarity, a moment of truth when your whole life flashes before you in 3-D. And for all her misfortunes, Precious is one up on most of us who struggle through a shadowy life trying to make sense of what we are, how we got that way.
With that piece of precious clarity, this daughter raised in hell now has a chance to go out into the world on her own, try to cope and become all she can be.