Short Term 12 is a film that was not on my radar, until I began to see it pop up in a lot of ‘best movies’ lists and on a lot of critics pages. I am a huge fan of independent film, as you likely know, and I never pass up a chance to watch one with such critical acclaim. So here are my thought’s on Destin Cretton’s film, which stars Brie Larson and John Gallagher Jr.
A youth care worker named Grace (Brie Larson) and her boyfriend Mason (John Gallagher Jr.) work at a temporary foster home, where they deal with a number of troubled children. They are wonderful with the challenging kids and their varying problems. However, as Grace attempts to deal with the problems of a young girl who reminds her of herself, we begin to see some of her own issues come to the surface that threaten to unravel her life as she tries to mend others.
Going in to Short Term 12, I pretty much knew it was going to be good. Indie films that receive this kind of praise are almost always going to be at least good to very good. So that set the film up with high expectations, but after watching this simple, short little film I can safely say it exceeded them.
Short Term 12 is only 90 minutes long, and in a way, on the surface it is extremely simple. It is presented mainly from the viewpoint of Grace, and is essentially just a snap shot of her life at the foster care facility she works at. However, what appears simple is actually incredibly deep and complex. The film opens up with her boyfriend Mason telling a story to a a new member of the team, before a young boy takes of running in an escape attempt. This little scene manages to tell us so much about each character, as well as the environment they work in, without ever directly attempting to do so. It’s a theme that continues throughout. We are just onlookers to something so real and so convincing.
The acting in the film, both from the leads and from the young folks playing the kids is incredible. Brie Larson has a huge future, as does Gallagher Jr (which I knew from his great work on HBO’s Newsroom). Lakeith Lee Stanfield was absolutely brilliant in a few key scenes as a troubled 18 year old about to leave the facility and Kaitlyn Dever as a young girl who brings back horrible memories in Grace. The chemistry between the kids and the workers is indescribable, as is the chemistry between Grace and Mason.
Not often does a film make you care so much about so many characters, with relative ease and in limited screen time. The story is driven by these characters completely, and there isn’t a need for anything more than their real life challenges. As we begin to learn of Grace’s situations, both past and present, we watch a story unfold that is easy to relate to for many, and inspiring in a way as well. In a lot of ways this is a film that inspires, despite being incredibly sad throughout. It charms you to the point that you can’t help but smile, and then breaks your heart to the point where I challenge you to say your eyes didn’t get a little glassy.
Hollywood could take note of a film like Short Term 12. No matter how big your budget, or crazy your story, there are always creative ways to develop a character, even if you can’t devote a lot of time to them. A film like Short Term 12 makes you care early, and then never lets you go. Along with all the drama, it should be noted that there is some great humor in their too. There are some incredibly funny moments, that really help cleanse your palette before the next emotional hit.
If you are sitting at home and have a couple hours of down time, my advice to you is get Netflix on and watch Short Term 12. It is flat out one of the best films this year. It is a film that is impossible not to love. It has everything you could ever want, from great acting, emotion, impact, humor and characters that you care for. It doesn’t seek a huge pay off, or try to send some huge message at the end or throughout. It simply makes it’s point(s) in every single scene. The great thing is, you won’t ever realize it until the credits roll and you get done wiping your eyes.