Short Term 12 is set in a foster home filled with teens that society has deemed “troubled.” Brie Larson plays Grace, one of the leaders at Short Term 12. We are introduced to the teens whose story we will be following, and at first, they seem troubled. They misbehave, talk back, and get into fights. So why do kids act the way they do? This is the question that is posed and answered in what is one of the most overlooked and best dramas to come out in 2013. Short Term 12 achieves what every film striving to shed light on a subject should do, bringing awareness through moments of honesty.
At first this group may seem like a disrespectful bunch, but it isn’t too long before their stories grab you by the heartstring and you sympathize with them. All of these characters are filled with complexity as this story begins peeling back those layers to reveal their inner turmoil caused from abandonment, harassment, and other means that have torn them down in life. While watching, I found myself thinking about all of the youth in the world who are going through these exact situations right now, and it’s heartbreaking. The biggest compliment that can be given to a film is that you forget you are watching a film with actors, and Short Term 12 made me forget all of that. I believed all of these characters because of the realness being portrayed, and because these are all situations that are happening in the world today.
Brie Larson is quickly becoming one of my favorite actresses of this generation. She is sarcastically cute, as Grace, while still maintaining a real determination in her attitude in wanting to help these kids. Kaitlyn Dever, from FX’s Justified and ABC’s Last Man Standing, creates a drastically different character in Jayden than previously seen, and she is very convincing and honest in her performance. A scene involving a children’s story she wrote is powerful in its subtlety, and packs an emotional punch. The moments shared between Larson and Dever are some of the most hard-hitting scenes I have seen all year, and can be quite tough to watch. This is a film that isn’t afraid to shy away from tough subject matter, and it’s all the better for that. The rest of the cast are equally great, another noteworthy performance being found in Keith Stanfield’s Marcus, whose rap verse is a real eye-opener to his character.
This story isn’t all gloom as, like in life, everyone has their happy moments that encase tragedy. Life is full of ups and downs, and the writing makes sure to include that. A lot of the comedic relief comes from Mason, played by John Gallagher Jr., who has pitch perfect timing in breaking up the tension when it gets too tough.
There is a real sense of passion behind this story by Destin Cretton, writer and director, and it shines throughout as the writing and acting never shies away from the harsh realities that life can bring, while also conveying the wonders that relation-bonding can bring you amidst those tougher times. Short Term 12 is one of the best films I have seen in 2013, and is being overlooked during awards season despite its 98% score on RottenTomatoes and 82% on Metacritic. Amidst the season of Oscar potentials, don’t pass this one up. This surprise hit might just be one of your favorites of the year.
My final rating for Short Term 12 is a 10/10.