Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire

Movie review by
S. Jhoanna Robledo, Common Sense Media
Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire Movie Poster Image
Popular with kidsParents recommend
Powerful, painful account of Harlem teen's hard-luck life.
  • R
  • 2009
  • 109 minutes

Parents say

age 16+
Based on 24 reviews

Kids say

age 15+
Based on 36 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Despite its many painful, cruel scenes and characters, the ultimate takeaway from this powerful drama is that no matter how persistently someone attempts to break you down, you are special.

Positive Role Models & Representations

A mixture of gruesome and awesome. Precious’ parents are vicious and uncaring (both are abusive, and her mother also handles a baby a little roughly, insults a special needs child, and calls her teen names), yet she finds a way to rise above it. Her teacher provides much-needed mentoring, and her new classmates offer friendship. Some cruelty among teens.


Overwhelmingly cruel at times, with a father molesting his daughter and a mother shown beating the same child -- including throwing objects (a television, for instance) at her and kicking her. One fight in particular is shockingly graphic. A man is shown unbuckling his belt and forcing himself sexually on a child.


Except for some dream sequences in which teens flirt with each other, all depictions of sex are either overtly or more subtly associated with violence (including assault). A woman is seen under the covers moaning, presumably pleasuring herself.


Very raw, with frequent uses of "f--k," as well as "s--t," "bitch," "goddamn," "ass," "hell," and "oh my God."


Some mentions of products in the context of dream sequences.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Some references to drug abuse, though nothing is shown.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this powerful indie drama based on the novel Push by Sapphire is a harsh, raw depiction of a Harlem teen’s brutal life that may be too intense for many viewers, even older teens. The main character is abused in every way imaginable (emotionally, physically, sexually) by those who ought to have her best interests at heart (including her parents) -- and yet she persists, rising above her circumstances. The language is coarse throughout the movie, there are many scenes of household violence (slapping, kicking, pushing, etc.), and sexual abuse abounds (a man is shown unbuckling his belt before he rapes his daughter). Still, it’s ultimately a compelling, thought-provoking film that will stick with those mature enough to handle it.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 18+-year-old Written by[email protected] July 31, 2018

Child abusing

There is scenes of child abuse and rape and nasty sexual scenes.
Adult Written byTruth W. March 7, 2018


Although I am sorry this girl went through hell.Thi movie show black women in the most vile disgusting way. Vile and should never have been made. Lee Daniels mu... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written bynadia2007 April 12, 2019

Surprisingly disturbing, but touching!

I've seen this movie once before, and to be honest, it's really inspiring! I would recommend this movie to be for older teens (around 16 or more) beca... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written bypollohermano5. August 5, 2016

Heart wrenching story that SHOULD be seen by teens

While I shouldn't rant too much about how great of a film Precious is, I must write that it is a must see for anyone who wants to be moved - this movie wil... Continue reading

What's the story?

Winner of the Grand Jury Prize at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival, PRECIOUS: BASED ON THE NOVEL PUSH BY SAPPHIRE, follows Precious (Gabourey Sidibe) -- a pregnant, 16-year-old, overweight teen in 1987 Harlem who's longing for a way out of her gritty, anguished life. Though she loves math, she can barely read or write. And when she’s not in school, she’s busy catering to the needs of her violent mother, Mary (Mo’Nique), whose rage is fueled largely by what she perceives as her husband’s rejection of her when he rapes and impregnates Precious. A transfer to an alternative school with an empathetic new teacher, Ms. Rain (Paula Patton), may be the catalyst that Precious needs.

Is it any good?

With its spectacularly brutal storyline, Precious is deeply compelling and disturbing at the same time. Director Lee Daniels goes for grit every chance he gets, with many sequences drained of color and light -- except for Precious' own flights of fancy, which provide much-needed escape from her own reality. The abuse -- verbal, physical, and sexual -- plays out in relentless assaults, allowing the audience to feel just a fraction of what it’s like to be Precious. It all makes for a powerful film, but sometimes it’s hard to stomach.

So thank heavens for Sidibe, who, in her first feature-film outing, doesn’t so much dazzle as persuade. She becomes Precious. Same for comedienne Mo’Nique, who surprises here with her monstrous depiction of Precious’ mother that manages -- a little, anyway -- to be tragic, too. And points to both Mariah Carey for her nuanced performance as a social worker and to Patton for providing uplift without treacle. Toward the end, the film feels a little message-y and hurried, but that’s forgivable. Precious is riveting.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the movie's themes. What do you think the filmmakers hope viewers take away from watching? Does a good movie have to be easy and/or fun to watch? What do we learn from going outside our comfort zone?

  • Is Precious' seeming indifference to how she’s treated and how she copes upsetting or understandable? Or even admirable?

  •  What fuels Precious' desire to be a better mother and to have a better life?

Movie details

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