Short Term 12
Written & Directed
After missing Destin Cretton's award-winning Short Term 12 at last years South by Southwest Festival and not getting around to seeing it when it was in limited release during last summer, I was bummed. But why had I not seen it yet? The buzz was there. A small little film that contained some powerful writing and directing. I just did not feel the urge to rush out and see it. Then, it came in the mail last week and I sat down one afternoon and watched it. Right time, right place. Maybe? The film wowed me and won me over thoroughly. A film about the human experience and how we affect each other in positive and struggling ways. This is the type of film I cherish. The type of film that has something to say and does so in a touching, powerful way. Short Term 12 is something not to be missed.
The film takes a little bit to really get going, but I never once felt I was watching something that was uninteresting or lacking in emotional depth and sophistication. The film revolves around Grace (Brie Larson) and her co-workers at a residential treatment facility for abused and foster teens. She is dating Mason (John Gallagher, Jr.) and the film starts with a rather grotesque telling of an unappealing moment in Mason's life where he followed a resident who left the center. The aids cannot touch the residents, but if they do leave the facility they can follow them. A moment that I am sure Mason wishes would never had happened, and one he will never live down, but it opens the film to moments of humility, comedy and tragedy. Themes that will be covered throughout the entire film.
Grace is the main focus. Coming from an abusive family, where her father was violent and sexual with her, she understands what a lot of these teens are going through. She relates to the pain and suffering, and wants to help in a way that does not make them feel sorry for themselves, but empowers them to cope with there situations and become stronger human beings. She has experienced the hardened realities of abuse and wants to help. But she does not come without her own demons that still cause much stress and depression in her own life.
Mason is passionately in love with Grace. They live together and he cooks Mexican food for her wearing a silly chef's hat. These two almost seem to be made for each other, but do not come from the exact same sides of life. He, coming from foster parents who he deeply cares for and she, coming from an highly unsettling childhood. Mason is a good guy. Period. But as Grace begins to really help a young girl Jayden (Kaitlyn Dever) who has dealt with similar abuses she has gone through, she realizes she has never fully healed, if she ever can, from the atrocities that were inflicted and forced upon her. It causes her deep emotional and physical hesitation in committing her life to Mason after he has proposed, and she has also recently found out she is pregnant. Mason wants her to open up and talk, but Grace feels very introverted about her personal life, while exhibiting immense compassion and discipline when dealing with the teens at the facility. She is fighting for the teens and herself everyday.
First time writer-director Destin Cretton has delivered a powerful cornucopia about life and need without presenting it in an expansive package. A tightly told story of pain and friendship. One that shows a fresh new talent that does not cave-in to cliches and narrative potholes, but pushes and expresses the human experience and its limitless boundaries. This film is a powerhouse and contains an intense and wonderful amount of beautiful performances from fascinating new actors.
I do not know if enough can be said about how absolutely amazing Brie Larson is in this film. She is just an absolute powerhouse and should have easily been in the top five for Best Actress at the Academy Awards. Her versatility, tenderness, pain and joy are fully covered with every scene she encompasses. She goes from happy to sad to concerned to depressed. Her range is tested throughout the whole film and she never misses a single note. A great film needs a great performance and Larson, a new talent that is heavily on the rise, is an no doubt knockout in this film.
The rest of the supporting cast is phenomenal as well. Gallagher, Jr. brings an almost hippy, casual demeanor to the role of Mason. A man who is willing to help and wait for Grace to open up to him. He is that guy that is sensitive and touches your heart with every word. I cannot forget to mention another standout in the film in the performance of Keith Stanfield. He plays one of the teens named Marcus at the facility and just kicks ass in this film. Wow! Older and does not want to be in there. Walks around with a chip on his shoulder and a past full of hate and hurt. So brilliant and wonderful. A scene where Jayden has had her father not arrive to pick her up on her birthday and she freaks out is so powerful with what Marcus does for her. A scene that will overwhelm you and bring you to tears. Powerful stuff. And Dever is quite a good actress herself, to say the least.
Short Term 12 just blew me away. A film that slowly builds and grows on you. It has a brutal honesty that I appreciate and one that touches your heart as well. Nothing is corny or self-absorbing. Cretton knows exactly what he is doing with this story and does not fail along the way. Brie Larson is a breakout in the role of Grace and is so powerful throughout the entire film. I am so pleased I finally saw Short Term 12. The film did not disappoint and exceeded all the hype and my soft anticipations. What a film and what talents behind, and in front of the camera.
Photo credit by IMDB.