Movie Review: ‘Short Term 12′
Directed by: Destin Cretton
Starring: Brie Larson, John Gallagher Jr, and Kaitlyn Dever
Plot: A staff member of a foster care facility relives old wounds when a new teen with similar issues comes under his supervision.
2013 is officially the the year of the young actor. Some of the best performances this year have been delivered by much younger actors, such as Michael B. Jordan in Fruitvale Station and Dane DeHaan in The Place Beyond the Pines. Additionally, the two young boys in Mud, especially Tye Sheridan, as well as the cast of The Spectacular Now were very impressive. This year, Short Term 12 is in good company.
The cast is made up of plenty of interesting kids, like Alex Calloway’s quiet redhead who regularly makes a run for it, or Kevin Hernandez’s troublemaker who knows all the right buttons to push. Keith Stanfield, who I have never seen before, is the best surprise of the whole movie. He plays Marcus, a quiet but confident song writer, who is about to turn 18 and get bounced from the facility with nowhere else to go. This drives him into a deep depression, which he usually breaks with the help of his fellow residents. On the other end of the spectrum is Kaitlyn Dever, known mostly for her role as Tim Allen’s daughter on the uninspired Last Man Standing. However, she also happens to be a part of the best damn season of Justified to date. As Jayden, she has just moved into the facility and hides behind her sarcastic wit. She still has the occasional temper tantrum countermanded by the staff’s silence and restraint.
At center stage is Scott Pilgrim vs the World’s Brie Larson as Grace, the senior staff member. She bursts onto the screen with likable, down-to-Earth charm. The charm hides a heavy weight that she carries through every action and decision. Grace starts every day biking to work from the home she shares with co-worker, Mason (played by The Newsrooms’ John Gallagher Jr.). Her job distracts her from her inner demons, a burden she refuses to share with anyone, but her job is so much more than a distraction. It’s a calling. Grace shows true love and care for these lost kids. She never talks down to them or makes their problems seem trivial. Her steadfastness is tested when Jayden enters Short Term 12. Jayden’s current problems match Grace’s past issues almost exactly. This causes Grace to withdraw even more and fight to not spiral out of control.
Short Term 12 proves that writer/director Destin Cretton possesses a knack for natural dialog, the kind of dialog that would be more useful to movies that successfully meander in and out of social situations. The frank, unflinching cinematography resembles these kinds of movies as well, but Cretton uses the mirroring issues between Grace and Jayden as a backbone, giving the movie a very deliberate momentum, something that is sometimes missing from indie flicks nowadays.
Short Term 12 is a simplistic, effective film. It can rip out your heart and stomp on it one minute and fill you up with so much joy the next. It captures that duality with some incredible performances aided by smart writing and intense direction.