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Short Term 12: An Authentic and Incisive Tale of Growing Up

February 22, 2014

Short Term 12 movie poster

Short Term 12 is the story of a twenty-something named Grace who works at a home for at risk teens. She invests herself fully in the work while pushing her own problems aside. Her journey immerses you into the world and the film is a marvel of authenticity and beautiful moments.

The movie has a heart and soul and you can tell the director has a familiarity with the material. Daniel Cretton infuses the film with a naturalness that evades melodrama and captures a realism rarely seen on film. His experiences working in a similar teen home and 2009 short film of the same name have molded the 96 minutes into a miniature truth bomb.  There is no cure-all for these people. The damage is irreparable and the only way to move forward is to understand the problems while moving onward cautiously.

I thought about the song Falling Slowly from the film Once when watching Short Term 12. I know the lyrics are out of context but they fit the film well. Here they are:

Well, you have suffered enough
And warred with yourself
It’s time that you won

Take this sinking boat and point it home
We’ve still got time
Raise your hopeful voice, you have a choice
You’ve made it now

The characters have suffered, warred and been stuck in a sinking ship. However, they can allow the ship to sink or they can attempt to make it back to shore. Some of them will never have a chance and for others the journey won’t be easy. There will always be physical/psychological leaks. However, when there is hope and friendship they can make their way towards something to live and strive for.

The small moments in Short Term 12 easily eclipse the big sweeping emotions of most films. For instance, the only thing one of the residents wants for his 18th birthday is to have his head shaved. He has always wanted to shave his head but was self-conscious about the bumps and bruises that his mom inflicted upon him. The scene breaks your heart as he feels his newly shaved head for the remnants left by his mom. There are no bumps and that feeling provides catharsis for the character.

Short Term 12 Brie Larson

Brie Larson had a wonderful 2013. Her characters in Spectacular Now, Don Jon and Short Term 12 are all different and could have been stock characters. She transformed the ex-girlfriend, younger sister, troubled twenty-something into three-dimensional characters with depth. She can do a lot with little and that is evident in Short Term 12. She is tough yet fragile. She is weary yet wants to be loved by her kind boyfriend. She wants the teenagers to open up yet can’t talk about her problems. Her character is explained beautifully in an exchange with her boyfriend.

Grace: Why are you so nice to me?

Mason: You being serious now? Well, it’s easy. It’s because you are the weirdest, most beautiful person that I’ve ever met in my whole entire life.

Short Term 12 is a fantastic film that will linger in your memory. It will be a springboard for everyone involved and hopefully will find a bigger audience. Watch it and let me know what you think.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. February 22, 2014 5:21 pm

    A raw, honest film about what it’s like to be human and feel the same types of emotions we all should feel and have in our lives. Good review.


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