With awards season upon us, and the film, Precious getting a lot of attention, now seems like a good time to examine the mother-daughter relationship depicted in this often-times difficult and painful to watch movie.
Despite being in a book club for many years, I had never read the novel, Push, by Sapphire, on which the movie was based. My friend had, though, and told me all about it prior to my seeing the movie. She said it was a short book and made for a harrowing but quick read. Since she mentioned that it was quite graphic, I was worried about seeing the movie. I knew it wasn’t going to be an easy one to watch.
While the subject matter was not easy to digest, the story pulled me in and I have to say that it wasn’t as graphic as I had feared. More things were alluded to than shown outright. I was thankful for that.
The story is an interesting study of the mother-daughter relationship gone terribly awry. I remember seeing Mo’Nique interviewed by Oprah Winfrey (one of the producers of the film) just before the movie came out. Mo’Nique certainly took a career risk playing such an awful monstrous character, but did an absolutely amazing job of portraying her. Oprah asked her how difficult it was to play this role and Mo’Nique said that there were times in the filming of the movie when she had to just walk away from a scene, it was so difficult. But she also said that she had to look at the character she was playing and ask what was going on in her life to make her this way. She found herself at times even feeling sorry for her.
I then saw Mo’Nique interviewed again by Ellen DeGeneres. She spoke about what it was like playing such a monster in the film. She again said she had to ask what had happened in this woman’s life to make her turn out this way. What did her own mother and father or someone else do to her? Mo’Nique also told about her own physical abuse by her older brother when she was young. She said that by doing this role, it allowed her not to hate her brother. She learned to have no judgment because you don’t know other people’s circumstances or what makes them become who they are and do what they do.
While this is certainly an extreme case of parental abuse, it illustrates a few important points. First, there are definitely times when walking away is the right thing to do. When the abuse and dysfunction is just too much and too destructive, estrangement and removing yourself from the very situation you are in, is the right and maybe even the only thing to do. Harder for Precious, certainly, in her circumstances (considering her young age, lack of education, lack of financial and other resources, being pregnant with another child, etc.), but something that may make sense for others in bad situations. Sometimes a relationship just cannot and should not be salvaged or repaired. I know I was rooting for Precious to just get away and not go back to her mother. If she went back, she would be destroyed for sure. Away from her mother at least there was some hope for her.
But, second, I think we can also see from this movie the importance of getting to know your own mother and seeing where she came from to become who she is today. As Mo’Nique says, you just don’t know another person’s circumstances and what may have happened in their lives to make them who they are. But if that person is your mother, you can certainly try. It can help your relationship to have some understanding.
Whether or not you’ve seen the movie, Precious yet, what are your thoughts?