SHORT TERM 12
Passionate and tough, Grace (Brie Larson), a twenty-something supervisor at a foster-care facility for at-risk teenagers, is a formidable caretaker of the kids in her charge, and in love with her long-term boyfriend and co-worker, Mason (John Gallagher Jr). But Grace's own difficult past - and the surprising future that suddenly presents itself - throw her into unforeseen confusion, made all the sharper with the arrival of a new intake at the facility - Jayden (Kaitlyn Dever) a gifted but troubled teenage girl with whom Grace has a charged connection. She and Mason also struggle to help Marcus (Keith Stanfield) - an intense, quiet kid who is about to turn 18 - to manage through the difficulty of having to leave the facility.
Review by Louise Keller:
An engrossing and moving glimpse inside a home for troubled kids, Destin Cretton's film weaves together a rich fabric of the daily challenges the kids and their carers face. Emotionally chaotic and unpredictable on a minute by minute basis, it takes no time at all for us to learn that it is not only the kids that have issues with which to deal. Central to the action is Grace (Brie Larson), one of the adults whose role is to create a safe environment for the youngsters during their year-long stay. Through her interaction with some of the kids, she reveals snippets of her own past, making it clear that the journey to recovery is ongoing and does not end when adulthood begins. While the topics are serious and the film heartfelt as it provides a genuine insight into troubled lives, there is a surprising lightness about much of the experience, making the bitter-sweet journey all the more rewarding.
Although Grace and her colleagues are not therapists or guardians to the youngsters, they establish a close relationship with their wards - by the very nature of their everyday interaction. Grace has a matter of fact approach to events, behaviour and tempers that can explode at any minute. 'You have to be an asshole before you can be a friend,' she tells a new counselor who is unsure how to handle the situations.
There is a gritty, honest moment when Jayden (Kaitlyn Dever), an antagonistic newcomer shares with Grace an illustrated children's story she has written about an octopus and the shark. The story is clearly a metaphor for her difficult relationship with her father and this is the only way in which she feels able to reveal it. Also moving is the scene in which Marcus (Keith Stanfield), a troubled young black boy sings the rap song he has written about his mother; the expletive-filled lyrics explaining all the things he is unable to say in conversation.
Much of the focus is on Grace, as she befriends and comforts the children in her care. 'You don't have to like me right now,' she tells Jayden, when the latter has just gone through an emotional trauma. But Grace is not always in control when it comes to her own life. She might share details of her past with the children as she shows her scars - both physical and mental - but there are still things she cannot share. Even with Mason (John Gallagher Jnr), a fellow counselor and the man in her life - her greatest ally - she finds it difficult to let him inside her head. Gallagher has a warm, easy presence and there is a genuine rapport between the two.
Ultimately the film belongs to Larson as Grace, the essence of hope for every child. Support, compassion and understanding is the recipe for success and Cretton's film takes an optimistic look at the child inside us all as we each address the demons within.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
As much as we may have seen stories about troubled, at risk children and as much as we may have seen stories about their carers (not always in the same stories), Short Term 12 has a compelling and engaging quality. Not only is the screenplay strikingly well observed and written, drawing us into its complex world and close to its complex characters, but it is beautifully performed and directed.
Of special note is Brie Larson as Grace, through whose experiences and eyes we see and feel the broad sweep of the story elements. Brie is absolutely authentic as the caring and capable Grace under pressure, her own demons bubbling to the surface and impacting her relationship with co-worker and boyfriend Mason (John Gallagher Jr - excellent).
Equally powerful is the performance of Kaitlyn Dever as Jayden, who arrives full of angst and pain at the live-in shelter where Grace and Mason work. Dever manages to find the perfect range as she battles for a way to survive her terrible circumstances. All the supports are wonderful, each unqiue and clearly drawn.
The film offers an unsettling insight into the daily life in such a facility, where people face enormous pressures every day, face to face with some of the youngsters who have been - and still are - damaged by their families or situations. It's often heartbreaking, but ultimately the film takes us to a truthful yet positive conclusion.
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SHORT TERM 12 (M)
CAST: Brie Larson, John Gallagher Jr, Kaitlyn Dever, Rami Malek, Stephanie Beatriz, Alex Calloway, Kevin Hernandez, Keith Stanfield, Frantz Turner,
PRODUCER: Joshua Astrachan, Asher Goldstein, Ron Najor, Maren Olson
DIRECTOR: Destin Cretton
SCRIPT: Destin Cretton
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Brett Pawlak
EDITOR: Nat Sanders
MUSIC: Joel P. West
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Rachel Myers
RUNNING TIME: 96 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Madman
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: December 26, 2013