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It's rare that a film moves you to tears and in the next moment makes
you belly laugh, all within a context of a very real, grounded story.
This film has some of the strongest writing, acting, and directing I've seen in American cinema since American Beauty was released. Subtle, incredibly deep, and full of unsentimental heart and compassion. It's about people who have been damaged by the people who are supposed to protect them the most: their parents. And it's not just about that. It's about how the human spirit can, with care and respect, somehow sustain after such darkness. It's about real love.
This film is why I go to the movies. This film is why I've made my livelihood movies. Bravo Mr. Cretton and everyone involved with the film. I wish you nothing but the best.
Real heroes do not always end up with glory and parades. Heroism is
sometimes reflected in small scale actions that no one ever hears about
but occur every day in schools, hospitals, or wherever there are people
who need compassion. Werner Erhard defines true heroism as "the kind
which ends up in the truth, in what works, in what is honest and real
being brought out and made available to others." This kind of
authenticity is front and center in Destin Cretton's Short Term 12, the
story of troubled teens living in a short-term group home who are the
recipients of empathy from counselors only a few years older who may
have faced similar situations in their life.
Winner of the audience award at the L.A. Film Festival and South by Southwest as well as the narrative feature prize, it is funny and sad with a wide range of emotions in-between. Coming from the director's own experience of working in a similar environment for two years, the film is permeated with an air of authenticity and it is rare that a film has such uniformly natural performances. Grace (Brie Larson) is the staff supervisor at the home known only as Short Term 12, a designation reflecting the fact that the residents are supposed to be there for no more than a year, although many have been there longer. The longer they stay, however, the more traumatic it is for them to leave.
These are not "bad" kids though some may have had run-ins with the law. They are, more often than not, victims of parental abuse or neglect whose continuing to live at home would put them at risk. Most of the children are scared and have a lot of hidden anger but Cretton does not present them in a way that solicits our pity. They are who they are and we relate to them as fellow human beings. As Grace tells Nate (Rami Maledk), a new worker at the home, "We're not their parents or their therapists. We're just here to create a safe environment." These words seem to be lost on Nate, however, who, when introduced to the residents, says "I've always wanted to work with underprivileged kids," an insulting designation to which 17-year-old Marcus (Keith Stanfield) takes umbrage. Marcus, who is going to be discharged when he reaches 18, ready or not, elicits a stumbling apology from Nate who realizes his mistake.
Grace's boyfriend, Mason (John Gallagher), begins the film with a story about an embarrassing incident with a young runaway. The story, which is gross and off-putting, is interrupted by bells going off as a scrawny young boy, Sammy (Alex Calloway), a frequent runaway, makes a beeline for the gate but is intercepted before he can make it outside the property. Jayden, in an impeccable performance by Kaitlyn Dever, is a new arrival who has made previous suicide attempts. Expecting her father to take her home soon, she is surly and uncommunicative and is only able to communicate with Grace by means of a heartbreaking children's story she wrote about a shark and an octopus, a story with a hidden meaning that that Grace pick ups on.
Marcus, in another moving scene, sings a deeply felt rap song he created for Mason about "a life not knowing what a normal life's like." Although the children play a huge role in the film, the main focus is on Grace and how her work affects her life. We find out at the beginning that she is pregnant and has scheduled an appointment to have an abortion, but she is conflicted. She knows that Mason loves her and would be a good father but she has seen neglectful parents or worse in her own life and at the home and her built-up anger expresses itself in a memorable scene.
Short Term 12 could have become another film that sets out to inspire us through contrivance and manipulation. Under Cretton's direction, however, if there are tears to be shed, every one of them is earned. Though it (most likely) will not be remembered when awards are handed out at the end of the year, unlike many films with huge budgets and greater hype, it will remain with you after the others are long forgotten. Short Term 12 may just be the best film of the year.
"You are not their friend, and you are not their therapist," Jack
(Frantz Turner) to Grace (Brie Larson)
You can be forgiven if you think Short Term 12 is a documentary, so close it seems to the reality of a foster-care facility, so natural its acting in almost every character. If you see any films this month, makes sure this is one of them
First time helmer Destin Cretton, with two years' experience in a similar care-giving facility (The title refers to the 12 or so group homes for teens in the county), has masterfully relayed the love and sorrow inherent in a place where virtually everyone is displaced from a parent, or abused, even the staff.
The story belongs to Grace (Brie Larson), a caring giver who influences for good many of her charges, not easy cases any one of them. Part of the reason she is so successful is that she knows from abuse by her father, who is in prison for his offenses. She finds a younger Doppelganger of sorts in defiant teen Jadyn (Kaitlyn Dever), whose traumas at the hands of her father are ongoing and call for identifying with Grace's experiences and strong remedy. Watch for an Oscar nomination if this indie is seen by enough of us.
To parallel the challenges of the home, Grace's home with fellow staffer, boyfriend Mason is both loving and stressful because she struggles with becoming pregnant and reconciling her tortured past with her father, who is ready to be released form prison. Mason is the ideal caregiver, loving and competent with the teenagers and her.
Although many moments could be melancholic or downright tear-jerking in other hands, Cretton doesn't allow excessive sorrow to rule; rather, the sadness is mitigated by the small triumphs. Hey, that's just like real life.
This little indie will cure you of any longing for summer blockbusters and their half-billion-dollar entanglements. Short Term 12's situations are enough satisfying drama for ten Lone Rangers.
One of the few movies in my life I cried at. Due to some of my background I was moved by the subject matter. It is one of the most natural movies I have ever seen. The entire cast seemed like real people and not one of them seemed like an actor. Great movies plunge the viewer into real lives as if they suddenly discovered someone else's life in front of them. The writer/director also had balance in the story, The most emotional scenes had tremendous impact because the timing when they occurred was not suspected. The scenes were gut-wrenching and drove me to emotional experiences as if I was a person in the film. Thus, the tears. This may be a hard film for viewers to be involved with, but it is worth every minute of it. The private lives of the leaders were weaved into the film and gave great understanding to the people who ran the agency. The child acting was without a flaw, and I felt as if I knew them in real life. I urge you to see it, but prepare yourself for an emotional ride with people in dire circumstances. A simply great film!!
After seeing this movie, I realized how the Academy works. If a movie doesn't have the budget to distribute their film to a vast amount of cities or campaign well, then it is unlikely to get its deserved recognition. I sat through the 96 minutes of this Indie film that got raved with impressive reviews at SXSW to see what the fuss was about. The people behind this movie deserve SO much more praise than they have gotten. This film, though not technically masterful, is emotionally wrenching. I laughed, I freaking cried my heart out, and overall it felt real. There was a connection to the film that was surprisingly amazing. The movie reminded me to Blue is the Warmest Color in the sense that it was raw, powerful, real, and astonishing. Brie Larson should have easily been one of the five nominees for Best Actress as well as Keith Stanfield for Best Supporting Actor. This film is a portrayal of neglected youth, a rare look at relationships, an articulation of the fears in the world, and a new point of view that most films have never shown before. I truly recommend this film to everyone, and will always give it the praise it deserves.
I saw this film a couple days ago at SXSW and it is still difficult to
put into words how I feel about it. This is a truly special film and
was definitely the big WOW moment of the entire festival. The film won
the Grand Jury and Audience Award for Narrative feature and it deserves
the accolades 100%. The acting in this film is so honest and real that
I felt like I was watching a documentary at times. This is easily a
star making role for Brie Larson, John Gallager Jr., and Kaitlyn Dever.
All are young stars on the rise and I hope this film helps progress
their careers in the right direction, because they all deserve it.
The film tells the story of Grace (Larson) and her coworkers as they work at a dysfunctional foster care facility. There are many characters in the film, specifically the kids in the foster care, and each and every character with a speaking role is a completely fleshed out, multi- dimensional character. It was easy to connect with every character since you really felt for their difficult life situation and it was riveting to see these characters interact with each other in a realistic way.
I don't want to say too much about the film, but there are some very moving scenes that definitely made me tear up. This is a very emotional film and you could feel the passion that was put into it by the cast and filmmakers. I believe wholeheartedly that this movie deserves Oscar buzz, specifically in Screenplay and some of the acting categories. The audience reaction as the credits rolled was one of the warmest receptions at SXSW that I experienced this year and multiple people gave it a standing ovation.
I cannot wait to see this film again, definitely the best of the festival and one of the best first features by a director that I've ever seen. This is going to be a very important film in 2013 and I cannot wait to see what is in store for the film, the director, and these talented young rising actors. You will be a better person for seeing this film. Just see it.
At its core, Short Term 12 is a film about kids looking after kids.
That youthful always-learning energy gives it a warmth and sincerity
that's extremely endearing and a joy to watch these vulnerable and
intriguing characters. It's about outcasts fitting in together and
finding their place making it relatable for whenever you've felt alone
and brings in a welcoming sense of community. It's Brie Larson's
protagonist Grace who heads the entire ensemble on her shoulders. She
gives a heartfelt performance, tough on the outside, swirling chaos on
the inside, and she's able to get that on screen and develop it in
every scene. In the way she is written, she shows the value of a
nurturing character and how that can get the audience's sympathy
regardless of any negative behaviour. The screenplay is terrific,
juggling its arcs very efficiently and delivering comedy and drama in
It can get too comical or sentimental at times but its overall maturity cancels it out. With its hand-held photography, it has a raw aesthetic that cuts through potential contrivances and predictability and gives it an involving sense of authenticity. The majority of the scenes are long and dialogue driven, often reflecting on short sharp outbursts or telling stories within the story be it an anecdote, rap or children's story read aloud. It provides an ideal pace and length it to feel brisk yet able to breathe and feel like a fulfilling 90 minutes. It's a film about catharsis and connection after deep repression, and the fact it's about young people makes the tragedies hurt more and the sense of hope more touching. It does have a bad habit of using the cliché of misplaced anger a bit too often, where a character furious at someone will instead hit those closest to them, but the deep rooted empathy for these characters allows those moments to feel at least somewhat justified as we feel that intense release with them.
The supporting performances are also fantastic, characters that although may follow a convention feel like they're coming from a genuine place. It's not often that a film like this would start its story with a relatively optimistic relationship as that dials down the potential for conflict, but John Gallagher Jr. and his chemistry with Larson makes it one we love watching and dread that moment where it inevitably goes wrong. Keith Stanfield is a standout from the younger crowd of actors whose powerful tenderness constantly gave me chills and Kaitlyn Denver who navigates around cliché and provides an earnest and passionate performance. Short Term 12 knows its deck has familiar cards, but it plays them just right. It's nice to have a film that knows that an original perspective is more engaging than original content. Despite its flaws, it's a really great emotional film and definitely the type of film I'd love to make.
"You need to get ready because it's so unbelievable it's going to seem
fake, but I promise you it's not, Grace will vouch for me...It's a
storytellers wet dream."
Every once in a while a surprising film like Short Term 12 comes around reminding me why I love cinema so much. This is only my second five star review from 2013 and this small indie absolutely hit all the right notes with me taking me through a wide range of emotions thanks to its perfect balanced mix of comedy and touching drama. I was drawn to these characters from the very opening scene and was completely engaged with the story. Having visited a foster care facility a couple times last year and spent some time with kids going through similar situations, this film really hit home and helped me empathize more with them. In a way I kind of felt like Nate, the new counselor in this film who didn't connect right away with the kids and there was not much he could do to help considering he had no idea where they were coming from. On the other hand, the two other counselors, Grace and Mason, really connected with the children because they came from similar backgrounds and understood how they were feeling. Short Term 12 writer and director, Destin Cretton, uses this film as a vehicle to let the viewer have a better understanding of the social situation these kids go through. I don't know if this would've worked so well if it weren't for the incredibly touching performances from the cast. Brie Larson is so great in this film, she hit all the right notes, and in some way she reminded me of Jennifer Lawrence in Winter's Bone. She has that same potential and her career will definitely take off after this. She deserves an Oscar nomination because she's that good. Her co-lead, John Gallagher Jr. also delivers a terrific performance and if we haven't heard much about him it's because Larson steals most of the thunder here. Even the kids in this film were terrific and that's why I'm giving this film the highest possible grade because it does everything right.
Grace (Brie Larson) is one of the young counselors at Short Term 12, a foster care facility for at risk teenagers. Along with Mason (John Gallagher Jr.), with whom she's in a relationship, they look after these kids who have come from a troubled past. The film opens with Mason welcoming a new counselor named Nate (Rami Malek), and he shares a story with him about his first day which didn't go too great. Then they introduce some of the kids to him: there's Marcus (Keith Stanfield) who's about to turn 18 and therefor will be leaving the facility soon, Sammy (Alex Calloway) who's going through a deep psychological trauma, and Luis (Kevin Hernandez) who's easygoing but enjoys bullying Marcus. A few days later a new teenage girl named Jayden (Kaitlyn Dever) arrives at the foster care center who seems to be deeply scarred. Grace begins to connect with her and realizes they have come from a similar past. Grace and Mason are both excellent counselors, mostly because they have come from a troubled past themselves, and despite helping these kids they also have to deal with their own scars in life if they want their relationship to work.
I loved the way that Cretton decided to open the film with Mason telling Nate a story, and then deciding to end it with another one. The structure of this film was just perfectly executed and I loved the balance it maintained. There were several different plots going on as each kid was going through different problems. The final scene in this film literally gave me goose bumps all over my body. Many people had an issue with it ending with such a positive note, but I thought it was perfect. Larson is a major reason why this film worked so well, her character Grace is just that: a graceful person who is doing her best to help these kids while at the same time trying to deal with her own demons. Dever and Stanfield also deliver powerful secondary performances and each one of them shares a memorable scene with one of their counselors as they try to express their feelings through different ways: Marcus does so by rapping and Jayden by reading a story. These two scenes are extremely powerful and emotional and they stand out in the film without feeling forceful or manipulative at all. This film just has so much heart and it's no surprise it has such a high rating (99% on Rottentomatoes) because it really is a vivid portrait that draws us in to these characters troubled lives in the pursuit and need of healing. Brie Larson's Grace has just become my favorite heroine of the year. That octopus story will stick with me forever, there was a lot of powerful stuff in this film.
Greetings again from the darkness. "An indie gem" is meant to be a term
of respect for a little movie that manages to make an emotional
connection, usually while being screened at a film festival or in a
very limited and brief theatrical run. The best ones drive us to
encourage everyone we know to take the time to see it. Such is
writer/director Destin Cretton's latest.
Some movies offer a promising premise and then let us down with faulty execution. Short Term 12 is actually better than its premise would lead you to expect. Credit goes to Mr. Cretton's quasi-documentary directorial style, tremendous acting from support characters played by John Gallagher Jr (Mason), Kaitlyn Dever (Jayden), and Keith Stanfield (Marcus), and a stunning lead performance from rising star Brie Larson (Grace).
Grace and Mason help run a foster care facility. We witness first hand their daily work with the kids, some of it quite mundane ... though other moments incredibly powerful. Grace and Marcus have their own personal connections to this way of life, and also happen to be in a relationship that seems built on avoiding the communication and connection that goes into their daily jobs.
The use of art as a communication device plays a role throughout. Marcus uses his rap lyrics, newcomer Jayden draws and writes children's stories. These two kids are particularly important because they also mirror the inner sanctum of Mason and Grace, and we see these people all battle demons in hope of living a "normal" life. This is not a story of saints and sinners ... these are just people coming to grip with the deck they've been dealt.
You will recognize Gallagher from his work on HBO's "Newsroom", and Dever made quite an impression in her time on "Justified". Larson's star is on the rise thanks to her presence in The Spectacular Now and Don Jon, as well as some upcoming projects. She IS what critics have been trying make Greta Gerwig ... an actress who breathes life into character we feel we know.
Incredibly natural in its approach, wonderfully balanced from start to
finish & further solidified by a convincing ensemble performances,
Short Term 12 tells the story of Grace, a very caring & capable
supervisor at a foster-care facility for at-risk teenagers. There are
three story lines that emerge from this film; one is about Marcus, a
quiet kid who's about to turn eighteen but doesn't want to leave the
facility, the second plot line is about Jayden, a troubled teenage girl
who's the latest member of the club. And the final & main plot line is
about Grace herself, whose past returns to haunt her after meeting
Jayden with whom she shares a connection plus the unexpected surprise
she discovers that can have a major impact on her future, thus leaving
her utterly confused with everything about her life.
The entire cast has given a brilliant performance, but it's Brie Larson who impresses the most as Grace and the film manages to portray her toughness & fragility evocatively. The locations are very lifelike, the entire film has a very calm & relaxed atmosphere for which the shooting location is responsible for, editing is finely done & it is smartly written & directed. On an overall scale, Short Term 12 is one of those dramas that are heartwarming & heartbreaking at the same time that will have you go through every emotion you're capable of and dares to deal with issues most people or families aren't very comfortable viewing or discussing about.
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