Review: Short Term 12

short term 12There’s a beautiful thing that happens when a movie can be soft and vulnerable, honest and raw, and optimistic, which is becoming a rarity in American cinema.

If that beautiful thing can happen without me rolling my eyes and dismissively pantomiming masturbation, then you’ve really got something.

Destin Cretton’s new film Short Term 12 actually succeeds at doing that, which is no small task.

After winning awards at its premier at South by Southwest in Austin, the film has gone on to collect accolades from critics and festivals alike. It finally hits Corvallis on Friday night at the Darkside.

It started as a short film in 2008. Based on the writer/director’s own experience working in a facility for physically and sexually abused youth, it won awards at the Sundance Film Festival. The feature length film is a funny and warm-hearted look at the lives of young caretakers of the facility on a new employee’s first day. It stars Brie Larson, who many will recognize from her memorable roles in the recent Scott Pilgrim vs. the World and 21 Jump Street, along with Keith Stanfield, Kaitlyn Dever (from TV’s Justified and Last Man Standing), and the excellent John Gallagher, Jr. in the lead roles.

Larson and Gallagher play the young leaders of the facility who are involved in a relationship that they think the children don’t know about, and are dealing with important life decisions while trying to provide care and support for the residents of the facility.

The kids range in age from 8 to 18 and are extraordinary. The most impressive performance from the young wards is that of Keith Stanfield, who reprises his role from the short version as Marcus, a disturbed teen on the verge of his 18th birthday.

In one particularly raw and moving scene, Marcus performs a rap detailing his feelings about the abuse he suffered at his mother’s hands. The actual rap was written by the talented actor/musician Stanfield, who raps in real life with an outfit called Moors.

“I feel like it was a section of me that was opened up for the camera,” said Stanfield about his raw performance.
But the movie is as much, or more, about the staff than the residents.

The director, Cretton, spent time working in a facility for abused youth, and spoke about the outlook required to be successful in such a job. He has true hope for all the kids who unfortunately need places like the facility depicted in the movie.

“I completely identify with all the fears that Grace (the main character, played by Brie Larson) is feeling,” said Cretton about the very personal project.

by Ygal Kaufman