The youth-written stories in YCteen give inspiration and information to teens in foster care while offering staff insight into those teens’ struggles.

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Movie Review: Precious
Plenty of Reality, But Not Enough Hope
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The movie Precious based on the novel Push by Sapphire caught many people’s attention. Some said it was a great movie, others said it was horrible, and it got nominated for several Oscars.

An African-American teenager named Clareece “Precious” Jones lives in Harlem in 1987. Precious (played by Gabourey Sidibe) is overweight and lives in a poor neighborhood. Her mother Mary (played by Mo’Nique) doesn’t work and relies on the welfare check to support her and Precious. But there’s barely food to eat at home and they are living an unhappy life.

Mary had become abusive after her husband left. Feeling ashamed and lonely, she takes out her anger by beating on Precious and calling her stupid and worthless. We find out through flashbacks that Precious was raped by her father and had a child by him. The child is a girl who has Down syndrome and lives with Precious’s grandmother.

After the movie started, I looked at others in the audience and was surprised by the looks on their faces. Most seemed shocked—their eyes wide open as if they had never seen such a thing. It made me realize that Precious is the first movie I have ever seen that tells a story of surviving sexual abuse by a parent and other problems that put kids into foster care.

Saved by a School

Precious goes to school like a regular kid and loves math. In her classes she has fantasies that make her happy. In her fantasies you see her with a special guy or dancing but most of all she is smiling, which you don’t see her doing in real life. She takes herself from her miserable life to a happy life inside her mind.

When a school administrator finds out that Precious is pregnant for the second time, she kicks Precious out of school. She tells Precious about an alternative school, but her mother doesn’t want to let her go. Precious doesn’t let her mother stop her and sneaks out to the new school.

Her new class is small, with just girls. Her teacher is very organized and gathers the students’ attention easily. Precious no longer has time to daydream; she becomes involved in her classroom and starts to participate and show progress. Her teacher then assigns the students to write in a journal. Precious shares all her secrets and her deepest feelings in the journal, and her teacher reads and responds back to Precious. They grow close through writing each other.

While Precious is opening up, she starts to get stronger. From not interacting with anyone, not even with her welfare counselor (played by Mariah Carey), she goes to having friends and socializing with everyone. All her classmates come to the hospital when she has her second child.

Confronting the Past

After the birth, Precious goes home from the hospital to her abusive mother. It’s a cold day, with snow on the ground as she gets out of the cab. The elevator in their crummy building is broken, so she walks up many flights of stairs and enters the apartment out of breath. Mary takes her grandson from Precious and holds him with a smile, but then she snaps and attacks the baby and Precious. Precious fights her mother and escapes with her child and ends up spending the night at her school.

Precious still keeps her head up. Although her older child has Down syndrome and she doesn’t have support from her parents, she follows the advice that she gets from her teacher that she must find a way to escape and she must confront her mother.

Most parents consider themselves always right. But in the movie you see that parents can make huge mistakes. Mary let her husband rape her daughter, and then blames Precious. She screams at her, “You took my man!”

Just like Precious, Mary has many strong feelings, but she never gets any help. She keeps everything inside and it becomes so much to handle that she can’t control her reactions. Her thinking gets tangled up. As much as she wants to beat herself up for the damages done to her child Precious, she can’t. Instead she beats up Precious, who wants to be saved and to be loved.

The movie shows how parents can be criminals. It also shows you how the child welfare system was before and how it’s different from now. I became really angry at how the school administrator sent Precious to an alternative school but didn’t guide her though it. But what shocked me even more was when the welfare worker had a session and confronted Precious’s mother but didn’t bother to help Precious leave her mother’s house and find her a safe home.

No Happy Ending

There is a law that all child welfare workers, along with health care workers, police officers, teachers, and others must report child abuse. Someone going through what Precious was going through should be taken out of her home and placed somewhere safe. But the system could also be hard for Precious, who is only 16, without a job, and with two kids. Children’s Services might take her kids away.

There were some things I didn’t like about the movie. Most scenes were too short and a few felt unreal to me, like the scene when the welfare worker confronts Precious’s mother. I know for sure that an abusive parent won’t easily admit to a worker the things that Mary did. Also I had trouble believing that a girl going through a lot of pain, being raped and abused, hardly ever cries. I know how it feels to live a life like Precious and I think most people get more upset than Precious did.

I also wish the movie had shown Precious succeeding. I hardly saw success in the movie, just a lot of pain. From the beginning to the end, she had to face conflict: getting raped by her father and mistreated by her mother, getting picked on by boys because of her weight, being a teenage mom, finding out she has HIV.

I wanted the movie to at least give Precious one break from her terrible life. She gets some support from her classmates and she gets good grades in her new school, but then she leaves school and gives birth to her second child. The movie ends with Precious walking alone with her two kids; you wonder what will happen to her. Her story is left uncompleted and that’s what disappointed me the most.

I would have ended the movie on a more positive note—seeing Precious get a job, take care of the kids, find a place to live away from her mother, and take medication for her HIV. As someone who’s gone through some of those same things, I’d want people to leave feeling more hopeful and less sorry for Precious.

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(WEB-03-04-2010)

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