Director: Destin Daniel Cretton
Screenplay: Destin Daniel Cretton
Starring: Brie Larson, John Gallagher Jr, Rami Malek, Stephanie Beatriz
Length: 1 hour 37 minutes
Grace (Brie Larson) is a supervisor at a home for at risk kids. Alongside Mason (John Gallagher Jr), Jessica (Stephanie Beatriz) and new staff member Nate (Rami Malek). As supervisors not only to they look after and provide activities for the kids at the home but offer friendship and guidance as the children face difficulties and fears of the future, especially for Marcus (Kieth Stanfield) who is nearly 18 and will have to leave the home. All the while Grace is still dealing with the own troubles of her childhood and when she becomes close to new girl Jayden (Kaitlyn Dever) her work and personal life start to collide.
Any film I watch from now on is going to be hard pressed to compete with the experience of watching Short Term 12. I love absolutely everything about this film, although I’m not sure love is the appropriate term to use considering the very serious and important topics that the film is about.
Director Destin Daniel Cretton has done an incredible job of turning the troubled stories of both the children and adult characters into an incredibly light filled and uplifting film. Based on Cretton’s own experience at a similar home and on interview he did with inhabitants of homes, nothing very explicit about the pasts of these characters is ever shown or really told. But through the mental trauma that Grace, Marcus, Jayden and others suffer we can easily imagine, which results in a much more powerful impact as what we imagine is often more vivid than what can be shown. It also offers an important side to traumatic experiences that is not often shown, the aftermath, especially for Grace’s character, how those experiences effect people long after the event even when they are in a safe place.
I loved the way the film showed as opposed to tell information about the characters and the scenario of the home. Each scene was like a snapshot into their lives, playing through in chronological order meaning everything about the characters and their motivations was not revealed bit by bit. This is a really clever way of constructing a film of this kind because it allows for total realism, we meet the characters mostly as we would in real life and have to use clues from what they say and do to find out more about them. This slow process of knowing them as people also creates a stronger emotional attachment to them I think.
Brie Larson is of course phenomenal as Grace. Recently quoted as wanting to portray real women, Larson certainly achieved that creating a character who you want as your best friend while feeling fiercely protective of her while also wanting to shake her for not being able to see in herself what Mason and the audience can see. John Ghallagher Jr’s performance is also to be lauded, perfectly fooling us into thinking Mason is just your average, genial guy before pulling us all into an emotional mess as it’s revealed his past is more complicated than we first thought. All the teenage actors are incredible as well and no-one felt like a cliché or a stereotype.
Although I absolutely balled my eyes out from about a quarter of the way in until the end pretty much consistently, the narrative leaves you with a great sense of hope about the future for these characters and real people like them and offers a beautiful portrayal of the incredible work carers, social workers and foster parents do every day.