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Short Term 12

2013 | 96 min | R | 1.85:1

Short Term 12


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Theatrical release date

 23 August, 2013
 01 November, 2013

Country of origin

 United States



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Short Term 12 Preview  

 / 10
Preview by Brian Orndorf, September 13, 2013

“Short Term 12” doesn’t cover any new dramatic ground, exploring the tentative connection created by shattered foster kids and their revolving door of handlers. It’s been fodder for television and movies for decades. There’s familiarity here, leaving writer/director Destin Cretton to find spaces of emotional complexity and guarded acts of vulnerability to explore with an emphasis on behavioral nuance. The filmmaker nails every single beat of personal expression and stymied confession, creating a picture that triggers a turbulent ride of reactions, hitting exquisite points of breakthrough and regression. “Short Term 12” is a beautiful effort that refuses the lure of cheap sentiment, electing to fashion characters worth inspection, feeling around the woe and frustration that informs each one of these superbly scripted personalities.

Grace (Brie Larson) is an employee at Short Term 12, a foster care facility for teens with emotional problems, requiring special supervision and patience. Alongside boyfriend Mason (a marvelously measured John Gallagher Jr.), Grace deals with an influx of escalations and seclusion from her kids, with Marcus (Keith Stanfield) a young man about to turn 18, forced out of the system, while Jayden (Kaitlyn Dever) is new to the home, showing little tolerance for others as she waits for her father to claim her. The daily struggles are routine, yet Grace finds herself drawn to Jayden’s defense mechanisms, recognizing them from her own adolescence. Now pregnant and open to marrying Mason, Grace is urged into a position of personal responsibility she’s unsure of, forced to confront her habitual patterns of denial as Jayden’s domestic experience is exposed in full, horrifying her handler.

Developing his short film for the feature-length treatment, Cretton is wise to keep perspective inside the facility. While the script follows Grace and Mason’s relationship in privacy of their home, “Short Term 12” is primarily concerned with the activity of the kids and their interactions with the staff. The viewer has a surrogate in Nate (Rami Malek), a new hire bombarded with old jokes and causal warnings, securing the rules of the program and its myriad of challenges, including repeated escape attempts and the high-wire act of doling out punishment through a system of emotional identification. Cretton manages to establish the boundaries of the property and its residents with alarming ease -- after the opening 15 minutes, we feel like employees, with caretaking responsibilities and staff interplay efficiently imparted.

The intimacy presented here is refreshing and alive, permitting examination of profound frustration from both the professionals and patients, with Cretton exposing raw nerves inch by inch with acts of compassion and supervision, holding on Grace’s efforts to keep order while buckling under the pressure of her own tumultuous life. “Short Term 12” is served the opportunity for cliché on a silver platter, yet it holds together with dignity, treating each character with respect for their instability and guarded interest in improving themselves. Communication is a key component of the work, and we observe Grace tempt Jayden out of her iron cell of bitterness by engaging her artistic skill, developing the thinnest of bonds over a shared history of cutting and the determination of wicked fathers. One of the finest scenes of the film finds Mason keeping a beat for Marcus as he performs his latest rhyme, a shattering confession of fear and suspicion from a teenager about to be ejected into manhood instead of reaching maturation through familial support. Cretton invests in the spirit of these kids, and that essence of understanding breathes life into “Short Term 12.” The human touch presented here is remarkable.

While there’s an ensemble of superior performances, “Short Term 12” belongs to Larson, who delivers such powerful, insightful work, it hardly feels like acting at all. A woman working the role of a supervisor as her private life spirals out of control, Grace is an extraordinary portrait of resilience crashing into denial, urged to confront her monumental demons as motherhood and the promise of marriage looms. Larson is steely but accessible, displaying a concentration to the nooks and crannies of expression and internalization that’s sensational to witness. It’s one of the finest performances of the year, exposing considerable talent from an actress who’s never had the opportunity to explore material as deeply felt and filled out as this.

There are grace notes peppered around “Short Term 12” that guarantee tears, and the picture’s summation of anger and its limiting, destructive characteristics is carried out with gravity, not sentiment. Created with an open heart and intelligence, “Short Term 12” is a rare viewing experience, articulating troubled minds with an aim toward an emotional purging that’s completely earned and appreciated.

Starring: Brie Larson (I), John Gallagher Jr., Kaitlyn Dever
Director: Destin Cretton

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Short Term 12, Forum Discussions

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Short Term 12 (Brie Larson) 25 Nov 19, 2013

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