One of the best parts of being a movie critic is stumbling upon a good movie you most likely wouldn’t have seen otherwise. “Short Term 12” is one of those little independent movies that often gets lost at the art houses or in the bottom of DVD bins that deserves a much larger audience.
Set in a foster care facility for troubled and abused teens this powerful and life-affirming movie is able to find hope in some very hopeless places.
The emotional heart of the movie is Grace (Brie Larson in a breakout performance), the lead staff member at the facility.
Grace is young but she is confident in her ability to relate to and care for the deeply disturbed kids in her charge. Grace works with her boyfriend Mason (John Gallagher Jr., who does some respectable work here as well), who also handles the kids with an effortless determination.
All is going well (or as well as can be expected in a place like this) until the arrival of Jayden (Kaitlyn Dever), a smart but withdrawn girl with a quick tongue.
Something about Jayden draws out some deep traumas from Grace’s past and Grace’s calm and collected exterior begins to unravel as she gets closer to Jayden.
What makes “Short Term 12” such an effective movie is the way it is never too earnest or melodramatic. First-time writer/director Destin Cretton lingers on the mundane routines that help give these kids the security they have never known and emphasizes the hard work involved in making sure that they don’t fall through the cracks.
Grace and Mason are their hope for the future, not just because they are the ones doing the everyday work with these kids, but because they once were these kids.
We also see through Grace how deep and lasting the damage can be as even 10 years later she is still processing the horrors she endured.
“Short Term 12” is full of interesting characters you can’t help but want to root for which is probably what makes it a movie you want to root for as well.
“Short Term 12” is rated R for language and brief sexuality.