Brie Larson as Grace
John Gallagher Jr. as Mason
Kaitlyn Dever as Jayden
Stephanie Beatriz as Jessica
Rami Malek as Nate
Alex Calloway as Sammy
Kevin Hernandez as Luis
Lydia Du Veaux as Kendra
Keith Stanfield as Marcus
Frantz Turner as Jack
In this line of work, it’s not very often that a movie comes along that I literally have no clue what it is about. We live with the films from the day they’re announced at Comic-Con until years after their release when the actors reminisce about the finished product. That in mind, it is always a treat to sit down and watch a film that you have literally no idea what it is about, who is in it, who made it, or what the actors were wearing in all the set photos. Sometimes it’s nice to just be engrossed in a film centered around strong characters with no explosions.
“Short Term 12” is a relatively simple movie in the sense that it has a small cast and only a few locations, but the subject matter and story of the film are definitely not simple. The film explores the lives of troubled youths and young adults and how they cope with their lives, their identities, and how they look at the future. Dealing with this notion might seem like a boring film to some, but I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t one of the most entertaining and engaging films I’ve seen all year.
Brie Larson of “21 Jump Street” stars as Grace, who helps run the foster care facility that provides the backdrop for much of the film. Larson delivers an emotionally charged and passionate performance that brought me to the verge of tears, laughing my head off, and on the edge of my seat with anticipation. Some actors would kill to have the kind of role where they can show off all their strengths and their range, but few get that opportunity, and Larson makes the most of it in what is likely the highlight of her career.
The supporting players in the film provide a lot of the weight to the film and drive its story and message home in a multitude of ways. Every character in the film, from Keith Stanfield’s Marcus to Kaitlyn Dever’s Jayden, are a specific and fleshed out person, not just the idea of a teen with a dark past. While the majority of the characters in the film have their own story arc that begins and is wrapped up throughout, they’re all there in support of Grace’s story. This may not be so obvious at first, but it becomes more clear as the story unfolds and the characters begin to open up.
I have to applaud writer/director Destin Cretton for not pulling any punches with this material. He has written these characters as fully formed people and not caricatures of humans as seen in an after-school special. Cretton utilizes the most basic of storytelling techniques throughout the film, and though some feel like an indie movie trope, at this point they feel fresh and unobtrusive to the viewer. His eye captures many beautiful and stark moments throughout the picture, the contrast between the two creates an even deeper understanding of the characters.
“Short Term 12” might be just a movie to some, but in my eyes it’s a very real and very truthful experience that reflects the best and worst sides of life and it’s something that can be watched over and over again. Cretton has crafted one of the most poignant and funny movies of the year that is not only relatable but is also totally captivating. It’s the kind of film like “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” that a younger audience should watch for its overall message, but likely won’t due to an arbitrary language rating from the MPAA. I cannot recommend this film enough. It’s smart, funny, heart breaking, and a joy to experience.