It’s hard to know how to respond to a movie such as “Precious.”
This independent feature and Oscar underdog is heavy stuff. The central figure is Claireece Precious Jones, an obese, illiterate16-year-old girl from Harlem whose regular abuse at the hands of her father has already resulted in one child. As the movie begins, she’s pregnant with another.
As the movie traces her small steps toward a somewhat better life – starting with learning the alphabet – “Precious” nimbly walks the line between exploitative horror show and inspirational hooey. It’s a noble effort, with outstanding performances. But the question you’re left with after watching – you might say suffering – through the experience is this: To what end?
You feel helpless while watching “Precious,” and despite the progress Precious makes, you don’t feel much better after the movie is over. As the misery of Precious’ life becomes overwhelming, my instinctive response was revulsion – at the abuse, the poverty and, I’ll admit, to Precious herself, an enormous teen who eats a bucket of fried chicken for breakfast and ends up vomiting outside of her classroom. She seems hopeless, as does the world around her.
So what are Christians to do with this movie? If you believe that God has charged us to redeem the world in His name, surely social justice is a part of that charge. But how do we respond in the face of such inexplicable awfulness, a situation that even leaves the social workers in the film flummoxed?
“Precious” leaves the audience in a state of despair, the kind where you throw your arms in the air and plead for God’s grace. Perhaps, then, “Precious” is something more than a call to human action. Perhaps the film isn’t directed at us, but at God. Some movies praise Him, many defy Him and others simply scream out in rage over the despicably fallen state of His world.
“Precious” screams. Who will hear?