Film: Short Term 12 – Destin Daniel Cretton, 15, 2013
Netflix rates it: 5/5
I rate it: 5/5
Destin Daniel Cretton’s Short Term 12 follows Grace (Brie Larson), a supervisor at a group care home for troubled teens, as she navigates her work and personal life. After the arrival of a new girl at the facility (Jayden, played by Kaitlyn Dever), Grace notices that their pasts are pretty similar and starts to bond with her. Her struggle to get through to Jayden forms a big part of the storyline, as well as dealing with her own demons. At a first glance, Short Term 12 deals with negative issues, and there are definitely plenty of breakdowns and runaways to deal with. However, there are a lot of surprisingly humorous moments peppered throughout as well, often courtesy of John Gallagher Jr.’s character Mason.
The washed-out colours used in the group home contrast with the vibrant characters you find there, almost suggesting that there is a bright side to everything. This message is reinforced in scenes where the teens and workers come together and play games, showing that despite the location and situation they find themselves in, they can still be happy.
Larson’s performance in Short Term 12 is impressive, bringing a very real quality to the character and perfectly showcasing Grace’s struggle with her problematic past and the surprising future she discovers near the beginning of the film. Her confidence as the supervisor of the home is contradicted by her disbelief in herself in her personal life, even asking “why are you so nice to me?” at one point. This somehow makes her more relatable and likeable; everyone has experienced that feeling. In fact, the whole cast do a brilliant job of portraying their characters’ struggles. Keith Stanfield does particularly well as Marcus, managing to come across as a stereotypical tough guy, then showing a more vulnerable side later in the film. Character development can be seen everywhere in Short Term 12, with Rami Malek’s Nate starting work fairly self-centered, and becoming far more involved with the teens as the film progresses. Rarely have characters in similar positions been seen as so caring.
One of the particularly interesting aspects of this film is the way we learn about characters through creative means. Marcus uses rap to tell his story, and Jayden uses drawings and stories. This intelligent and imaginative way of telling characters’ backstories adds something refreshingly different to the film.
Based on a previous short film of the same name, Short Term 12 does not shy away from the real-world issues that teens in similar situations would face, and that is what makes it so refreshingly honest amongst many films that choose to sugar-coat real life. Handheld camera shots lend themselves well to Short Term 12, adding to the realism. Although it deals with serious issues, this is definitely not a reason to be put off watching Short Term 12, as it handles them in an emotional and intelligent way with carefully added humour- something that not many films have managed to pull off.