Short Term 12 is a film written and directed by Destin Daniel Cretton. The film tells the story of Grace (Brie Larson), a twenty-something supervisor at a short-term foster facility for at-risk teenagers called Short Term 12. On a daily basis, Grace fraternizes with her fellow counselors, breaks up fights between kids in her charge, helps talk kids through their many problems, but most of all, positively impacts each and every foster kid’s life in such a spectacular way.
A creator of mostly short films, Destin Daniel Cretton has completely broken out and created one of the most touching stories you will ever come across in modern cinema. This film was based off of a short film he completed for his senior project while in film school, and it is his passion for this narrative that exemplifies itself on the screen so superbly. Each character in the film has a very different story to tell, but in so many ways, they are all the same—Cretton’s marvelous script gives each of these characters a voice, and they are all written with veteran elegance.
The best part of this well-crafted independent film is Brie Larson’s breakout performance as Grace. She has become somewhat better known thanks to supporting roles in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010), 21 Jump Street (2012), and The Spectacular Now (2013), but Larson fully releases herself into this lead role, and the results are absolutely, unequivocally astonishing. Larson’s performance is so incredibly transparent, and even though I was aware of her, I completely lost sight of the fact that it was actually Larson on the screen—her immersion into the character is that good. The character is much more complex than initially meets the eye, and the emotionally wrenching circumstances of Grace’s life are epitomized by Larson’s award-worthy character construction. It is sheer acting talent on display in Short Term 12, and it makes me very excited about what Larson will continue bringing to the table in films to come.
Aside from Larson’s breakout role, the film features two utterly amazing supporting performances from Kaitlyn Dever as Jayden and Keith Stanfield as Marcus, two teens housed at Short Term 12. Dever has previously played supporting parts in Bad Teacher (2011) and The Spectacular Now (2013), but her portrayal of the complicated Jayden in Short Term 12 is mind-boggling, considering she is just 17-years-old. Even though her exterior is that of a punk, dismissive girl, the film reveals how her inner anger and heart breaking past threaten Jayden’s survival; Dever plays this convoluted character to a tee.
Keith Stanfield also gives a menacing performance as the about-to-graduate Marcus, a 17-year-old with the epitome of a troubled past. Stanfield does an excellent job of delineating his character’s emotional roller-coaster ride at Short Term 12, and this gripping portrayal made Marcus one of the most intriguing characters from the film. My favorite scene from the entire movie was when Marcus performs a rap song he wrote about his mother. The song is crude, profane, and angry, but with every despicable insult about his mother, you begin to empathize with Marcus for the harsh life his mother forced him to live—it is a breathtaking moment, and it is just one example of the subtle way Short Term 12 takes you into the delicate minds of its characters. Short Term 12 is rated R for language and brief sexuality.
Short Term 12 trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H8QxAYxNRgs
Academy Award nominations for Short Term 12:
Previous movies on the countdown of the Top 15 Films of the Year:
3. The Hunt
4. Frances Ha
5. The Wolf of Wall Street
6. The World’s End
7. American Hustle
8. The Spectacular Now
10. Captain Phillips
13. Fruitvale Station
14. The Place Beyond the Pines
15. Dallas Buyers Club