Short Term 12 was released in theaters on August 23, 2013 and collected a couple of awards, most notably the Grand Jury Narrative Feature Award and Narrative Audience Award at film festival SXSW (South by Southwest). It is written and directed by Destin Daniel Cretton, who also crafted the critically acclaimed film I Am Not A Hipster in 2012.
Brie Larson (Room) stars as Grace, a young woman who works in a facility for at-risk youth while dealing with troubles of her own.
This film is heart-wrenching and heart-warming at the same time. The best way to describe it is to say that for every tear shed or pang of sadness felt, there is a laugh that soon follows. Cretton’s characters are multi-layered and well developed; flawed and troubled, yet still likeable and relatable.
Grace is someone who has completely thrown herself into her work to cope with the abuse she herself experienced as a child. Outside of a relationship with her co-worker boyfriend Mason, played by David Gallagher Jr. (10 Cloverfield Land), these kids are all she has.
Kaitlyn Dever (Justified), plays a young teenager who copes with her mother’s passing and her father’s abuse by cutting herself. In many ways, her story parallels that of Grace and the two form an unlikely bond. There are some absolutely beautiful moments between these two, particularly when Grace unexpectedly opens up. Then there is tough kid Marcus, portrayed by Keith Stanfield (Straight Outta Compton), who was subjected to brutal beatings by his own mother as a child. When tested by her most problematic charges, Grace is patient, firm, resilient and most of all loving.
Additionally, Grace’s relationship with Mason faces challenges because she struggles to communicate her past of abuse to him. Gallagher portrays Mason as an easy-going and good hearted man. From the beginning of the film, theirs is a relationship that you hope works out just because they seem so good for one another.
Larson truly shines in Short Term 12. It never appears that she is trying to be something that she’s not. Her straight-forward approach to the character and amazing talent work very well and under Cretton’s direction she flourishes onscreen. It goes to show that she was delivering Oscar-worthy performances long before Room.
The aforementioned Dever and Stanfield both give exceptional performances and it is apparent that we will continue to see them onscreen for years to come. Rami Malek (Mr. Robot) and Stephanie Beatriz (Brooklyn Nine Nine) have a small amount of screen time, but they also shine as Grace’s co-workers and friends. The entire cast delivers in this one.
The characters and the issues they face are presented in a very realistic and grounded way. There is a satisfying sense of closure when the film ends. However, in the final moments, you realize that there is work left to be done. Just like in the real world, these characters are on a journey and only time will tell what the future holds.
I really enjoyed Short Term 12. I love stories like this one because they offer hope to so many. Destin Daniel Cretton is definitely a director to watch.
Short Term 12 also stars: Frantz Turner, Alex Calloway, and Kevin Hernandez. It is currently streaming on Netflix.