Short Term (2013)

September 21, 2013 By Mike B
Movie Review

Short Term 12 Film Review

What Worked?

The teenage years are hard for most people, but there are those times where teens are thrust into living nightmares with nobody there to fully wake them up. Destin Cretton, Indie director of I Am Not a Hipster, takes us to Short Term 12 to explore the lives of troubled teens in a foster care facility and the staff that’s there to help them. The film displays the talents of Brie Larson, John Gallagher Jr., and a fantastic group of young actors.

Cretton penned a script that is raw and very real, as it explores the various issues that at-risk teens go through when they don’t have the privilege of having any immediate family that cares. The film feels like a documentary, as it’s shot with hand-held cameras for a gritty feel with only one real flourish, which appropriately comes at the end of the film with a graceful slow-motion shot that can only be described as perfect.

Brie Larson is amazing, and the cast that surrounds her matches her intensity and depth. Larson plays Grace, the supervisor of a foster care facility who knows how to deal with the troubled teens because she’s been in their shoes  in a way that most people haven’t. Larson, as Grace, shows that she cares for these kids like they were all an extension of herself. It’s amazing to watch her keep her composure and absorb the pain of the kids while harboring her own personal problems. She’s a poster-girl for the underrated workers that make a living helping children that can’t find help in their own homes. There’s plenty of Best Actress Oscar buzz surrounding her performance, and she definitely deserves it.

There are plenty of great performances in this film, as the cast  does a collectively amazing job; however, there are a few performances that shine a little brighter than the others. Up-and-coming talent Keith Stanfield is simply captivating as Marcus, a quiet but at times volatile teen that takes solace in venting his pain through rap. There’s a particular scene where he gets his head shaved that is rather remarkable, plucking at the heartstrings of the audience. Another highlight of the film is Kaitlyn Dever, who plays Jayden, an abused teen that has become a rebel out of necessity. Jayden is a fairy with broken wings, angry and helpless in a situation that she can’t control, and Dever portrays that with a captivatingly real performance. Overall, the entire cast does a tremendous job and there isn’t a single moment of falsity in the film.

There’s so much hope drowned in agony in the eyes of the teens in Short Term 12, and it feels so real that you’ll be thinking about the kids on the drive home from the theater. How will they turn out? Can they all crawl out of the holes life has put them in? What’s next? Although a kid’s life can be ripped apart by abuse and neglect, people like Grace do a tremendous job of letting them know they’re worthy of being loved. The film explores how lonely and abusive life can be, but it also reminds us the comforting fact that we’re not alone, and that there is happiness on this planet, even if its only in moments at Short Term 12.

Potential Drawbacks:

If you’ve watched films like One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest or Manic, then you know what you’re in for, and this may not be a subject that you want to explore again. Additionally, this may not be everybody’s cup of tea because it deals with such dark issues, and it’s definitely not groundbreaking storytelling (although, that wasn’t the point).

Film Recommendations:


Perks of Being a Wallflower

It’s Kind of a Funny Story 

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