Movie Review: 'Short Term 12' -- 4 stars
Short Term 12
Directed by Destin Daniel Cretton
Starring Brie Larson, John Gallagher Jr.
Playing at Landmark Sunshine and Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center
We go to the movies for discoveries like “Short Term 12,” a small independent drama without an A-list star or a marketing gimmick that stands out because of such old-fashioned tenets as terrific storytelling and acting.
This is a masterpiece, pure and simple, a film with a deep and abiding understanding of the soul, that confusing, mysterious place where love can be indistinguishable from pain. It’s the story of a woman named Grace (Brie Larson), who works as a supervisor in a foster care facility, where she offers advice and direction to teens who have been abandoned and forgotten, who feel like all hope is lost.
Writer-director Destin Daniel Cretton introduces us to several of the residents while his camera intimately observes the tenuous ecosystem within the facility, where the teens struggle with overwhelming emotional issues.
“Short Term 12” is rife with powerful scenes in which Grace, her boyfriend/fellow employee Mason (John Gallagher Jr.) and others work feverishly to connect with their wards, to break down seemingly insurmountable barriers. These moments are attuned to the ways we struggle to cope with traumas and how those experiences materialize again and again. There’s happiness and sadness, humor and tragedy, inside this remarkable place.
But this is really Grace’s story, and the movie resonates as it explores the deep reservoirs of pain that have shaped her young life. She’s great at her job because, just a few years ago, she was one of those teens herself.
Larson’s performance is suffused with authentic feeling – the strong will of a woman who is a born leader, the aching vulnerability that comes with self-hatred, with the belief that you’re not meant for happiness, and a teacher’s commitment to making things better for others. Larson has that rare actor’s gift of making the act of thinking into a compelling experience, imbuing a single glance or gesture with a lifetime of meaning.
She’ll break your heart and so will this movie.