Short Term 12 Reviews

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Super Reviewer
November 1, 2014
A delicate and complex character study that never romanticizes what it wants so say, being instead very down to earth in its approach to show us how an underprivileged childhood can create emotionally fractured adults whose uncured issues won't simply go away with time.
Super Reviewer
½ October 28, 2014
The foster care system is the most flawed institution in the United States, which is disheartening as many of the children in said system deal with abuse, loneliness, and mental health issues. "Short Term 12" comprises everyday goings on of a facility for kids who live between homes and the street, and the workers who help them. At the crux of the film is Grace (Larson) who leads the facility's workers and helps kids while also dealing with her own life. It's really quite sweet that Grace and her boyfriend Mason (Gallagher) have fragmented childhoods, and so they have to (rather than want to) help ease the pain of these children and the problems they face. In comparison is a college worker who would like to help, but doesn't know where to start. The performances from the child actors in this film are nothing short of astounding. Brie Larson commands complete presence onscreen, as Grace, a multi-faceted basket case who is always trying to do better, but inevitably has to fight her demons. This is a really sweet, funny, heartfelt film dealing with big issues in a sensitive and thoughtful way, which makes it highly recommendable.
Super Reviewer
May 24, 2014
Usually I avoid "indies", if specifically promoted that way, but here the plot sounded interesting enough. Barring some of its cliches and forced drama, it was watchable enough, if not interesting enough. Once watchable. Once watchable. In all fairness, 2/5.
Super Reviewer
May 19, 2014
Tender, raw, and genuine, "Short Term 12" is a wonderful statement on how to relate to each other in a way that is ever striving to make our world more rich and alive. Doing so is not easy, but we can easily sense the value of such an effort through the warmth that permeates every scene. The script and cast deserve equal credit for performances that seem effortlessly natural, creating a sense of intimacy not often accomplished, giving us a strong sense of presence inside this precious and delicate community.
Super Reviewer
March 1, 2014
1, 2, 3... Okay tears go ahead. "Short Term 12" is the kind of film that you do not get very often and is so genuine in it's story that you feel compelled to applaud when the credits role, even if you are sitting alone for the viewing. The story follows a group of young adults as they take care of a facility for abused adolescents and do their best to correct what their parents have done throughout their lives. Once you get to know these characters, every story, and almost every line of dialogue that these kids deliver will have you tearing up. These young actors were chosen perfectly and I really believed I was watching these lives evolve before my eyes. I cannot complain about any aspect of this film, because everything, down to the editing and sound, was done very well. I have no reason not to say this is one of my favourite films of 2013. It's a must see, but have a strong heart ready.
Super Reviewer
½ February 25, 2014
A small indie film that I am so happy that I didn't ignore. All of the performances were solid, and the story was very well done. What really impressed me was that it was about messed-up kids, and yet was not a "downer" movie...more an uplifting one, instead. Moving. Intelligent. Just an all around good film!!
Super Reviewer
February 23, 2014
Independent cinema doesn't get any better than this. Soulful, heart wrenching drama.
Super Reviewer
½ January 24, 2014
A shining example of effortless realism in modern independent cinema, "Short Term 12" is a glorious rendering of emotional subject matter; a docu-drama that puts it's down-to-earth camera styling to great effect against a (seemingly improvised) script of utmost insight and raw power.

The setup, chronicling the daily workings of a foster-care facility, has been seen before but never handled as convincingly as director Destin Cretton's feature length adaptation of his own short film of the same name. There's a pulse to this film that is absent in many realist dramas, attributed in no small part to a stellar cast... most notably Brie Larson in the lead who is an absolute revelation here.

In fact, everything about this modest production is praiseworthy. From it's memorable supporting turns, to a dedication for not taking the obvious or easy route through a potentially familiar, overly sentimental narrative, "Short Term 12" sings. It's arguably the finest films to ever deal with underprivileged youth and those who dedicate their lives to helping them. A film deserving of it's universal acclaim.
Super Reviewer
½ January 10, 2014
Just when I thought my Favourite Movies of 2013 list was all wrapped up...
Super Reviewer
January 9, 2014
This is one of those indie movies that sometimes seems like a documentary because it feels so real. Brie Larson stars as Grace, a girl in her twenties who works at a home for at risk teens. She loves the kids, plays with them, and is there for them when no one else is. Then something happens in her personal life than begins to change her while she gets a new teen whom she takes a special interest in because she sees so much of herself in her. This is a pretty solid little movie with a great performance by Larson. Mark my words in the next few years she is gonna be a major actress. She was the daughter on "United States of Tara", a show which few people watched but was amazing. The kids in the home feel like kids that got plucked right out of the streets/bad homes. They all do great. The movie is one of those "quiet" movies with a lot of shakey camera shots and not a lot of background music. It does drag some, but it never gets boring or tedious. One of the better 2013 indie movies for sure. Definitely worth a watch.
Super Reviewer
December 10, 2013
Young idealistic caretakers deal with her personal demons while helping emotionally troubled youth in a group home. Nothing surprising in this earnest, heartwarming indie drama, but it's well made.
Super Reviewer
½ August 19, 2013
"Short Term 12" has flaws, sure. But like its many troubled characters, in the end it transcends its various issues. The film has such a sense of life and humanity at its core that I found it impossible not to wholeheartedly connect with it. One of the very best films of 2013.
Nate Z.
Super Reviewer
½ September 25, 2013
It's rare for a movie to be emotionally devastating while also being overwhelmingly inspirational and hopeful, but Short Term 12 achieves the nigh impossible.

Short Term 12 follows the inhabitants of a small foster care center in Middle America. Many of the kids have been taken from their biological parents because of abuse, neglect, imprisonment, or death. Many have never known a stable home life. And many will age out of the system at 18 and be trusted to make something on the outside by their lonesome. Grace (Brie Larson) is the lead counselor for the center. She's dating a co-worker, Mason (The Newsroom's John Gallagher Jr.) and pregnant, unsure of where to go from here. As the center prepares for one Marcus' (Keith Stanfield) age-out departure, they welcome Jayden (Kaitlyn Dever) to their abode. Jayden's well-connected father is getting his life in order for full custody, but it also becomes clear that her home life is a danger to her well-being. Grace fights to get Jayden to open up, then she fights to keep her safe, all the while forcing her to deal with her own long hidden pain.

It's so easy to get engaged in this movie. The very setting calls for plenty of drama and pain to be explored, and it will be, but that doesn't mean that the film goes overboard with histrionics. The characters are written with such naturalistic ease, allowing an audience to understand them without judgment. These people, be they the foster kids or the counselors, feel refreshingly, exceedingly, magnificently like flesh-and-blood people. The characters feel lived in, their struggles feel real, and their responses are sincere. The foster care system in this country is grueling. A counselor needs a big heart, thick skin, and an immeasurable supply of patience. There are a lot of abused kids in the system, just hoping to find an adult who wishes to love them, to nurture them, to care. The kids don't want pity, they are perturbed when they're referred to as "underprivileged youth." What they really want is respect and sincerity. Highly charged emotions are a given considering the circumstances of the characters, but what makes Short Term 12 exceptional is that they are fully earned. We don't just feel for these kids because they've suffered, we feel for them because they are presented as characters instead of martyrs. I was emotionally moved throughout, tearing up several times, feeling heartbroken at turns and then brimming with buoyant hope at others. It's a balancing act the movie masters.

Writer/director Destin Cretin (actually remaking his 2008 short film of the same name) explores these characters in gentle waves, allowing the characters to open up in ways that don't feel forced. You learn about these characters and their history bit by bit, sometimes through creative expression where one must read between the lines. Marcus might seem to be one character, then his rap song he write reveals an aching degree of personal pain, and then the revelation for why he wants to shave his head, which at first just seems like an average teenage compulsion, will break your heart all over again. You yearn for these kids beyond measure, wanting them to taste delayed happiness in this world, but you also understand why they're so guarded, why the system grinds together as it does. This is no polemic overburdened with speechifying and soapboxes. It doesn't really make any larger points about foster reform or the people who run the system. Instead Cretin gives every participant in the film complexity, empathy, and humanity. Even Grace's supervisor, easily set up for quick blame about decision-making, is allowed empathy. You feel the man's plight as he tries to make the best out of a bad situation, which is exactly what the counselors are trying to do themselves with their charges. Cretin's emphasis is on his characters and not necessarily on making overt political attacks. I knew within minutes that I was in for something special. You can feel it with the dialogue, how easily Cretin is shaping character without splurging on exposition. These people come alive under Cretin's watch, and you'll be pulled in within mere moments.

This is also fundamentally a star making performance for Larson. The young actress has had visible roles in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, 21 Jump Street, and TV's The United States of Tara, but nothing prepared me for the power of her performance. Larson's character has plenty of personal pain and secrets and a gnawing sense of futility, but she pushes forward, trying to make a difference somehow in this world. You feel her intensity and determination but you also feel her setbacks and uncertainty. Larson never strays outside the emotional bounds of her character, staying true to her aims. Grace is no saintly and selfless figure. She's paying a real price keeping her own pain bottled up, focusing completely on others so that she doesn't have to assess her own damage, but Jayden forces her to examine her own history. Larson serves as the dependable emotional anchor of some very choppy waters. In a just world, Larson's name would be bandied about come awards season, but the overall small, understated nature of Short Term 12 and its limited release leaves me in doubt. However, there is no doubt that Larson gives a deeply humane, gripping, heartfelt and marvelous performance.

The character relationships are just as compelling and provide a rich texture to this world. The dynamics within the foster center are interesting, nothing as simplistic as slotting kids into staid high school types. There are divisions within the home, chiefly between Marcus and an antagonistic Luis, but it's also invigorating when you witness the various kids come together in solidarity and community, when they look out for one another. Jayden is surly at first but won't let on how truly hurt she is that her father missed her birthday. Marcus leads the other kids and they all make a slew of birthday cards to cheer her up, make her feel that someone out there cares. It's a small gesture, and yet when it plays out it hits with a wallop. The relationship between Grace and Mason is sweet and frustrating, representing a romantic coupling of two people with an obvious connection but also enough baggage to derail potential long-term success. Gallagher Jr. is a nice fit for the part. I really enjoyed how Mason is developed as the film progresses. Initially he seems like a pseudo-cool authority figure, then a scruffy screw-up, then a sincere and grateful individual worried about Grace and aggravated by his inability to help Grace.

There are movies that feel true in a broad sense but clumsy with the fine details, and vice versa, but Short Term 12 is that rare movie that feels so authentic that it could have been a documentary. Sure there is convenient plot developments and a tidiness that life just doesn't want to provide, but the overall impression is remarkably genuine. The character feel like actual people, their world feels recognizable, and their struggles feels familiar and relatable and raw. Short Term 12 doesn't glorify the counselors, nor does it demonize or sanctify the kids under their care. Here is an unblinking look at the sheer weight of the work of trying to provide for those in need. The movie is a potent drama with several heartbreaking incidents, but I don't want to scare people off with the impression that Short Term 12 is all artsy doom and gloom. On the contrary, the film is resolutely hopeful in the face of such dire adversity. The perseverance of the counselors, as well as the kids striving for independent lives, is what I walk away with. Not the abuse, not the systematic neglect, but the indomitable perseverance of the human spirit to transcend damage and to succeed anew. This is the long-lasting impact of this superb movie. It's not about the pain inflicted, rather than human connections forged and the optimism of recovery. Not everything will get its happy ending, but it is inspiring to watch people put it all on the line, thanklessly. Short Term 12 is the kind of movie you bug your friends until they finally watch it. Ladies and gents, commence bugging.

Nate's Grade: A
Super Reviewer
August 7, 2013
Bring your hanky. Some of the best performances I've seen this year.
Super Reviewer
½ March 16, 2013
'Short Term 12'. Difficult subject matter handled very deftly. Plenty of emotionally rewarding moments. The whole ensemble is great, but Brie Larson in particular really shines!
Super Reviewer
October 22, 2013
Grace (Larsen) is a supervisor at the title facility, a foster home for troubled teens. Though it remains a secret from their charges, Grace and coworker Mason (Gallagher Jr) are lovers who live together. When Grace learns she is pregnant she initially keeps it a secret from Mason, placing a strain on their relationship as Mason grows tired of her mistrust. When a teenage girl, Jayden (Dever), with a history of self-mutilation arrives at the home, Grace is reminded of her own troubled past. Another kid under her charge is Marcus, due to leave in a couple of weeks when he turns 18, but seemingly unprepared for life in the outside world.
Recent movies dealing with the issue of care-giving (the obnoxious 'Thanks For Sharing' and last year's 'Smashed') have tended to adopt a patronizing tone, in no way reflective of real life. The setup of 'Short Term 12' in the wrong hands could have easily been another offensive story of flawless white people saving minorities but writer-director Cretton (adapting a story he previously filmed as a short) gives us protagonists who are as flawed as those under their care.

Grace constantly tells her kids they need to verbalize their issues, something she refuses to do herself, much to the annoyance of her incredibly patient boyfriend Mason. Explaining why she cut herself as teen, she tells Jayden "When there's blood coming out of you, you don't have time to worry about anything else" and this seems to be her motivation for caring for others, allowing herself to forget about her own troubled background by focusing on others' more urgent problems.
I don't know if Cretton has a background of working in facilities like this, and I've never experienced one myself, but his portrayal of this world is thoroughly naturalistic and convincing, if slightly too good to be true. I've always loved movies that take you inside an unfamiliar lifestyle, be it the ambulance drivers of 'Mother, Jugs & Speed' or the cops of 'The New Centurions' (a movie this is very reminiscent of), and allow the rules and processes of their world to unfold in a natural way, like being thrown in at the deep end on your first day in a new job.
Larsen is a revelation in the sort of meaty role young actresses are rarely afforded. The ensemble is roundly great though my one complaint is that the kids look a little too clean cut and feel a bit "central casting" when compared to the young untrained actors we've seen a lot lately in European films like 'The Selfish Giant' and 'The Kid With a Bike'.
Though there's a dark undercurrent to the film, Crettin never lets things get too downbeat and avoids falling into the "misery porn" trap. While his film is populated with lovable characters, things never get schmaltzy and you in no way feel like your emotions are being cynically manipulated.
I suspect the real world versions of these facilities are a lot more grim but, like Mason's anecdotes that bookend the film, 'Short Term 12' may not be grounded in truth but it sure is comforting.
Super Reviewer
August 24, 2013
There are quite a few movies with teachers helping "underprivileged kids," but the setting of this indie is more unique. The title refers to a short term foster home where teens supposedly stay until the court decides on more long term placement. Brie Larson is Grace, a young supervisor at Short Term 12. John Gallagher Jr. is Mason, one of Grace's co-workers and her boyfriend. Keith Stanfield, who also appeared in Cretton's short with the same name, is Marcus, one of the older teens who has had a longer stay at Short Term 12. Stanfield also recorded the rap for the closing credits. Kaitlyn Dever, who also appeared with Larson in The Spectacular Now as a fellow high school student, is Jayden, a new arrival to the home. Grace seems to function better when she is helping the teens with their problems rather than dealing with the emotional trauma of her own life. We get small glimpses of her background throughout, not through flashbacks, but when she shares stories that might help the teens. She is so compassionate and knowledgeable because she went through similar foster care. Mason, we find out, was also a foster kid, who was adopted by a loving family. Marcus is preparing to age out of the foster home. Jayden is dealing with abuse similar to what Grace experienced. Grace struggles with memories of her father at the same time as trying to decide if she should start a family with Mason. The leads and the few other supporting characters who are revealed a tiny bit form a well woven tapestry. It is emotional material that is delivered in a touching manner with lots of love and occasional laughs where appropriate.
Super Reviewer
September 12, 2013
Before his first day working at a short term facility for troubled youth, Nate(Rami Malek) listens to a story from Mason(John Gallagher Jr., of "The Newsroom"). Grace(Brie Larson), their supervisor, also takes the time to inform Nate of the rules like what to do when Sammy(Alex Calloway) makes a break for it. Inside, Nate says he took the job to work with underprivileged kids which Marcus(Keith Stanfield) takes grave offense to. When he turns 18, all Marcus wants for his birthday is to have his head shaven. Jayden(Kaitlyn Dever, of "Justified"), a new arrival, figures she will not be sticking around the facility long enough for her to turn 18. Outside, Grace and Mason are a couple, with Mason wondering why it has been 9 days and 13 hours since they have had sex. Maybe that has something to do with Grace being pregnant which Mason does not know about, yet.

If you have to see only one movie about troubled teenagers this September featuring Brie Larson...well, I haven't seen "The Spectacular Now," yet, so it will have to be "Short Term 12" which in any case is very much worth it, especially due to its excellent performances. In addition to one scene that almost made me want to cry, the movie uses humor well to modulate the emotions and to relieve the tension while the characters use it to deflect. Overall, this is a situation where all the characters, both adults and teenagers, are facing an uncertain future where the youth are watched over by people not much older than they are. Of particular interest is Grace, whose past is gradually revealed and knowing what she knows about herself has to decide what kind of parent she will be, if any.
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