Short Term 12 Review
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At this time of year, everyone is talking about the year’s big award contenders—the buzz-worthy films by well-known directors and big-name stars. But there are a few smaller films that get the occasional mention—documentaries like Blackfish, foreign films like Blue Is the Warmest Color, and surprising indies like writer/director Destin Cretton’s Short Term 12.

This simple but moving drama explores the day-to-day lives of the residents and staff of a group home for troubled teens. Grace (Brie Larson) may be in charge, but she’s not much older than some of the residents. And as she watches over the kids in her care and tries to maintain order in the home, she struggles with old fears and hurts of her own.

When Jayden (Kaitlyn Dever) arrives at Short Term 12, she brings with her haunting memories of Grace’s troubled childhood. And as she tries to help Jayden, Grace is forced to face her past before moving on with her future.

At its heart, Short Time 12 is just a simple slice-of-life indie drama about a bunch of troubled kids. But their stories are so moving—and the performances often so remarkably honest—that this little indie that could manages to rise far above much of this year’s Oscar bait.

The film is filled with fascinating characters—from Jayden and Grace to Grace’s easy-going co-worker and boyfriend, Mason (John Gallagher, Jr.), and aspiring rapper Marcus (Keith Stanfield), who’s about to leave the home after turning 18. Each of the kids has a story to tell—and no matter how tough they may seem, each one is hurting. Though the film focuses on just a couple of these young characters, their stories will break your heart.

The caretakers, meanwhile, are so patient, so accepting, so respectful of the kids. They aren’t doctors or counselors, but although their authority over the kids is limited, they’re the ones who know the kids best, who spend their hours getting to know them and earning their trust. At the same time, though, they all seem to be wrestling with their own problems, fears, and insecurities.

Together, these characters make up one fragile but often fiercely loyal little dysfunctional family. Each one will quickly find a way into your heart. They’ll make you smile. They’ll make you cry. And their performances are so natural that you might sometimes forget that it’s just a story.

It may not have a big-name cast or flashy effects, but this simple little drama is simply compelling. It’s the kind of film that you’ll watch with a lump in your throat—and the characters and their stories are sure to haunt you long after the credits roll.

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