Movie Review: Short Term 12


Image via New York Times

Sometimes, you see a film that makes you happy and it is hard to explain why. Maybe it is fairly dark, but it also begins with someone telling a story about shitting their pants after eating a taco. That’s what you get with “Short Term 12″: a very serious drama that also manages to capture all of life’s joyful, fleeting moments.

“Short Term 12″ is the feature film debut of director Destin Cretton. The film is set in a foster-care facility. Cretton worked at one in real life. The story might not be true, but elements of it feel like they were definitely taken from experience.

The film centers around Grace (Brie Larson), a twenty-something supervisor (Wikipedia’s words, not mine) at a foster-care facility called Short Term 12. Like most other twenty-somethings in indie dramas, the one thing keeping Grace from moving forward with her life is her own troubled past. Larson is such a fun and dynamic lead that it seems easy to forget that their could be anything wrong with her. She has trouble with her relationship with co-worker Mason (John Gallagher Jr.) because she won’t let anyone into her head (his words). This wouldn’t be a successful film if it didn’t eventually drill deep down to the root of all her problems. In a slow yet never boring buildup, it does just that.

The Short Term 12 of “Short Term 12″ is such a fully-formed and plausible place because the film establishes all of the relationships between both the co-workers and the teenagers so well. The film mainly shows Grace and Mason trying to help out Marcus (Keith Stanfield), but the film finds both its meaning and emotion in Grace’s growing friendship with Jayden (Kaitlyn Dever). It turns out that Grace and Jayden have a lot in common, and it is this one child that helps her leave her head.

The idea that the troubled teens could help out their caretakers just as much as their caretakers can help them is a very heavy-handed idea which is not treated as such. It all feels natural given that they all help each other out in very unexpected ways. This is one of the better films that has been made in recent years about psychological damage. Damaged people  might just be the best thing for other damaged people.

Other films like “Short Term 12″ might have handled the subject matter incorrectly. Luckily, Cretton understands that stories involving domestic abuse don’t have to make the audience hate themselves. “Short Term 12″ is something like the anti-”Precious” and because of that it will likely lend itself to repeat viewings.

The film starts and ends with a very similar image of an event that was dramatic at the beginning but by the end comes off as funny. It is also strangely uplifting because it shows that while the characters have changed, certain circumstances have not. However, if these problems have been dealt with before, then perhaps they can be dealt with again. “Short Term 12″ shows that the vicious cycle doesn’t always have to be so vicious.

Brain Farts From The Edge

  • I only spotted about three major indie tropes here: shaky cam; white person looks sad while taking a shower; white person looks sad while taking a bath.
  • Another part of the film that made it so enjoyable was the focus on all of the rituals and celebrations both inside and outside of “Short Term 12.”
  • I’m pretty sure that Grace was borrowing clothes from Margot Tenenbaum.
  • The most honest exchange in a very honest film: “I want to work with underprivileged kids” “What the fuck does that mean?”
  • I hope I didn’t sound too misleading in the review. This film is a doozy of pain and sadness. Brace yourself for emotions.
  • Brie Larson should have gotten way more awards consideration. Also, if I saw this earlier it would have made my top 10 of the year list. Screw it, that list should be longer. The number 11 is underrated.
  • Short Term 12 Years a Slave. Boom. My job is done.
  • I would let Brie Larson spray me with a water gun.
  • This film was most likely shot on a tiny budget (I can’t find the numbers on IMDB or Box Office Mojo), but boy does it look good. Sometimes, all it takes is the eye of a good director and a good cinematographer as opposed to piles of cash.