A hidden gem which doesn’t make light of, or over-dramatizes, the state of each character, and truly is one of those films you wish to share and see get prestige.
Trigger Warning(s): Cutting & Attempted Suicide
Review (with Spoilers)
A friend of a friend recommended this film and after seeing the trailer, featuring so many familiar faces, I thought “why not?” After all, we have Brie Larson who has really just grown into a great and diverse actress; Rami Malek who I wish was in more things since I have been following his career since The War at Home was on air; and then we have, from Brooklyn Nine-Nine, albeit not in a big speaking role, Stephanie Beatriz.
Characters & Story
The title of the movie Short Term 12 is about this place which seemingly is supposed to act as a temporary foster facility. At said facility are the line workers Grace (played by Brie Larson), Mason (played by John Gallagher, Jr.), Jessica (played by Stephanie Beatriz), and Nate (played by Rami Malek). Together, they help monitor at least a dozen kids who are in this home for various reasons. The two main kids they focus on though are Marcus (played by Keith Stanfield – Darius in Atlanta) and Jayden (played by Kaitlyn Dever).
Now, it should be noted that in the story they don’t go easy on the teen/ child actors at all and they very much deal with what is considered “adult emotions/ situations.” There is a lot of talk of abuse, a showing of scars and bruises, and the story, especially for Grace, deals with the trauma which is dealt with even decades after the abuse ends. But, at the same time, there is a strong showing of how loved ones, even those not blood-related, can make a bad situation better, or at least be there to keep them from getting worse.
In general, I try to keep these reviews under a 1000 words, but to really properly praise this film I might need more than that. So, let me try to summarize the best I can. Starting off with Brie Larson, I think most of the praise and admiration Jennifer Lawrence is getting right now, should definitely be shared with Brie Larson. Taking nothing away from Lawrence, Larson quickly brings you into Grace’s life and keeps you in awe. In awe that despite it all, she can smile; despite it all she can love; and though I have no idea what Larson may have been through in her life, her taking on this role gave me the type of empathy in which I was crying, worrying about any future children I could have, and I swear to you I was getting depressed for her.
And on that note, I must say I did like how Larson portrayed someone with a mental illness and didn’t try to make it quirky, or even how the writer/ director Destin Cretton didn’t write the mental illness to be something so debilitating that it stopped her from life. I mean, yes, she struggles to be in a relationship, and even around kids who could be triggers, but despite all that happened, she still pushes on. And it was also nice to see a boyfriend who wasn’t blindly supportive but seemed to actual fit the type of emotions you’d imagine yourself having if you were in love with someone who was trying their best, but sometimes cracking under pressure.
Leading me to talk about the two kids, or young people, Keith Stanfield and Kaitlyn Dever. Like I said in the Standing Up review, it is so rare that actors of juvenile age are allowed complex emotions that it makes it so when you see a child struggle with insecurity, past abuse, or other issues, it is so heartbreaking. I mean, just thinking about these two actors performances have me panting like I was the one running, even if what I was running from was miles away. Stanfield’s character, for example, in itself could have been its own movie, albeit it might mirror Precious, but stories like that do need to be told. And then with Dever, through her we see Larson’s character Grace and the parallel is written so well that I’m mad at myself that I didn’t hear about this movie while it was in theaters.
Really, the only issue for me was that Grace gets pregnant in the film, and be it the fact Grace dresses in baggy clothes or consistency issues, she goes from once scene in which we can see a baby bump to her seeming like she isn’t as far along as we thought. Also, I must admit, as much as I loved Larson and the other actors/characters aforementioned, I did feel that the shine they got was at the expense of everyone else. Malek and Beatriz essentially are just there, and while you understand not everyone can be given a developed background/ story, after you finish the film you do wonder about the other kids and staff there.
Overall: Must See
I don’t care if it is on TV, VOD, Rental, or what have you, you should see Short Term 12. This is such a good indie film, one which shows what happens when the talent comes and is ready to work, and not simply the talent comes because of the money and that extrinsic motivation which comes from monetary gain. For, to me, this film is one of the few I would ever consider to almost be a ten, and though admittedly I’m sure this elation will dissipate, I doubt my admiration for Brie Larson after this film will. To me, this is definitely the type of film which makes you a fan.