Short Term 12 movie review

Posted on 6 November 2013
By Charlie Elgar
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With just a few short films behind him, we might be witnessing the directorial breakthrough of Destin Cretton with Short Term 12, a beautifully crafted independent film.

There were high hopes for his first major feature after winning the Audience Award at the 2013 SXSW Film Festival.

Told through the eyes of Grace, a 20-something supervisor at a foster-care facility for at-risk teenagers, Short Term 12 has been described as a ‘roller coaster of every emotion.’

At times forcing the viewer to peak an involuntary smile through their initial blubbing and upset.

Supported by her long–term (secretly kept) love, Mason (John Gallagher Jr.), it seems that Grace’s tough yet rewarding job is fairly secure, until the arrival of a new intake at the facility along with a future made up of unforeseen circumstances, shakes everything up.

Although the film is primarily dark and often upsetting, Cretton manages to squeeze glimpses of hope and humour in unexpected places – you literally don’t know whether to laugh or to cry.

The connection and camaraderie of the foster kids is portrayed so well that for a second we are oblivious of their situation – until suddenly we are plunged back into the rather discouraging reality of these guys who are faced with rejection and disapproval on a regular basis.

Brie Larson’s character Grace manages to portray a fierce, strong and sturdy shell, coupled with a contrasting level of fragility that is worryingly delicate.

Too worried about the troubles of ‘her’ children, as opposed to her own issues – a thought that predicts an expected eruption of emotion at any point – she lashes out at Mason.

Larson puts her all into the character, digging deep to create an authentic reflection of a person whose unforgettable past cannot be expelled – however hard they may try.

New ‘recruit’ Jayden (Kaitlyn Dever) makes Grace feel as if she is looking in the mirror, with Jayden’s past reflecting that of her own sexually abusive father. Grace takes on a rather maternal figure over Jayden, even though she thinks she is unfit to be a mother.

As we view the relationship between these characters grow, crumble, and grow again, the authenticity of Cretton’s direction is second to none.

Handheld camera work throughout enhances the role the viewer plays, as we are thrown into the somewhat unfamiliar mix of this environment – hitting home the day to day struggle these foster kids’ experience.

Cretton replaces cinematic clichés with legitimate circumstances that, aided by such high calibre acting from the collective, enable this film to shine and rise above its opponents.