Short Term 12 movie poster
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Short Term 12
Short Term 12 movie poster

Short Term 12 Movie Review

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Teenagers can be a pain in the butt. Teenagers in a foster care facility? It takes a special person to deal with the emotional rollercoaster involved. Short Term 12, which won Grand Jury and Audience Awards at the 2013 SXSW Film Festival, is a superbly acted and well made drama about a young staff member whose memories of her own troubled childhood resurface when a new girl arrives at the home. Whether it breaks any new ground is another story.

Brie Larson delivers a star-making performance as Grace, who has largely earned the respect of the kids under her care. Her colleague and boyfriend Mason (John Gallagher Jr.) loves her and wants to take their relationship to the next level, but with the arrival of an angry teenage girl named Jayden (Kaitlyn Dever), commitment issues begin to surface. Stupid commitment issues.

Larson is terrific, but so is the rest of the cast. Gallagher's understated performance serves as a perfect balance to Larson's, though it is Keith Stanfield, who plays an 18-year old boy facing the prospects of leaving the facility that steals the show with an emotionally fragile and powerful acting debut.

Writer/director Destin Cretton has made a fine film that looks great and is written even better. Cretton worked in a foster care facility when he was younger and many of the characters were in some way based on people he interacted with at some point; Short Term 12 feels like a personal project, but more importantly audience members will relate to it in the same way. You care for the characters and understand why they do the things they do.

Not too movies can do that.

And yet, Short Term 12 didn't blow me away like it has my fellow critics. It's a well made movie and has no real shortcomings, but I'm not convinced it's going to leave a lasting impression. Only time will tell. Nonetheless, Short Term 12 is a breath of fresh air as we transition from the season of big summer blockbusters to whatever the fall has to offer.

Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.

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