Short Term 12 (2013) Film Review from the 57th Annual BFI London Film Festival, a movie directed by Destin Daniel Cretton, starring Brie Larson, John Gallagher Jr, Kaitlyn Dever, Rami Malek, Keith Stanfield, Kevin Hernandez, Melora Walters, Stephanie Beatriz, Lydia Du Veaux, Alex Calloway, Frantz Turner, Bran’dee Allen, Danny Roper, Elyssa Gutierrez, Garryson Zamora, Michael Marto, Tanya Marie A. Bitanga, Patricia Barrett, and Zoe Wilkens.
Short Term 12 is another priceless addition to the coming of age genre from 2013. Remarkably so, it is unique in its own way even as it tackles a very familiar subject-the unprivileged and troubled contemporary teen. There is nothing too original or ground-breaking about Short Term 12 but the enormous boldness, passion and heart with which the script was written and acted make this a hugely affecting and memorable film. It is rare to see a motion picture of such utterly contagious humour and emotionally involving drama at the same time. It’s a film that does to us exactly what it allows us (the viewers) to do to the characters-dig deep into their souls until we sympathize with them to an unimaginable level. This is exactly the sort of profound closeness between the audience and the characters on screen necessary for us to realize the past pain and tragedies that were responsible for all troubled people’s behaviour.
The acting was truly stunning. Brie Larson (Grace) is surrounded by great actors and actresses-young and older but she is the heart, the pulse and the moral centre of the film alongside John Gallagher Jr . (Mason)-the film’s guardian angel. Both of them made me laugh, put a lump in my throat and tempted me to listen carefully to their words of comfort and wisdom throughout the whole film. I almost immediately began treating the two main leads with the same sympathy and dedication with which they treated the children. Both performances were very humane, very powerful and natural and manage to affect us with undeniable potency throughout this exciting, happy present journey darkened by the past horrors of the characters. The children in the film are just breath-takingly amazing. Just like the director of the film Destin Daniel Cretton put it right after the screening at the BFI Film Festival: ‘There are two things that novice directors are trying to avoid dealing with: young children and animals.’ There were many children in this film, who are very young but all of them performed phenomenally. Cretton’s greatest triumph in Short Term 12 is the direction of his cast.
The script was equally miraculous. It gave me the feel of One Flew Over Cuckoo’s Nest (1975): the feel of a place filled with awkward but lovable characters, which has been copied over and over again in countless successful films. Short Term 12 is no exception. What is exceptional is the way irresistible comedy and heart-pounding drama is mixed so subtly. Imagine an action film with spectacular set pieces, which happen every other minute. This is the pace with which the comedic and the dramatic beats in Short Term 12 were delivered. It just didn’t let me rest in a very positive way. The script made me feel like a troubled teen in a foster-care facility, living in plenty of humorous and crazy situations with a constant heart-ache ready to wake up, roar and strike underneath. The best thing about the writing is that it managed to bring us so close to understanding these unprivileged kids. It let us know that trouble is everywhere and in the lives of every single one of us-regardless if we are accepted by society or thrown out of it. The reason why such troubled kids are outcast is because the horrors they have experienced are greater and in order to survive their behaviour had to adapt to the cruelty. It is as simple as that. This is what Grace and Mason knew and this is how they managed to keep up with their endless care for these seemingly spoiled kids.
Short Term 12 tells us that pain can be the source of great suffering, but at the same time it provides us with the tool to defeat it-compassion, love, and understanding.