Wednesday, October 8, 2014

31 Days of Writing: 'Short Term 12' Review

I recently watched Deston Daniel Cretton's Short Term 12 on Netflix. I had been waiting to see this film since it came out late in 2013, but given that it only had a limited release, it never made it to any theaters within a 50 mile radius of my city. So, when it popped up on my Netflix account, I immediately saved it to my watch list. And then it sat there for four months. I was so excited for this film but I knew I needed to be in the right mindset to watch it. I knew Short Term 12 was not going to be the feel good hit of the summer.

When I finally mustered up the courage to sit down and take it in, I was pleasantly surprised. While Short Term 12 is, at it's heart, a drama, Cretton & his cast have done an amazing job of balancing the unbelievably sad with the unbelievable hilarious/ridiculous.

Short Term 12 begins with a residential facility for at-risk kids who run the gamut of coming from the worst home situations imaginable. Children are placed there until the state can figure out what to do with them, resulting in some of the residents being there for up to three years. Grace, played by the powerful & vulnerable Brie Larson, is a 20-something staff member who puts everything she has into the kids and the facility she works with, occasionally to the detriment of her own relationships. We also meet Mason, another supervising staff member & Grace's boyfriend. Mason, played by John Gallagher Jr,  is the bright spot in all the darkness and succeeds in making the heaviest of scenes light enough to bear.

Though Short Term 12 focuses a lot of it's energy on Graces' past & her & Mason's relationship, this truly is an ensemble piece. The audience is given a look at several of the group home's residents and told stories of past residents who have made their way into an uncertain world. By the end of the film, you really care about every kid at the facility and are rooting for them to succeed, despite insurmountable odds. After the assignment of a new resident to the facility, the film builds steadily towards the explosive culmination of Grace's past, present & future.

Short Term 12 is heavy. It has moments that are so hard to watch and I can guarantee that at some point, you will be uncomfortable.  Watch it anyway. This film accurately depicts what life is like for children and adults who have been harmed by inadequate and often dangerous family lives and an occasionally broken legal system. We see how bad it can be for these kids and the darkness that produces. But this film doesn't leave them there.

I would recommend this remarkable film to anyone, regardless of their film tastes. Short Term 12 is full of heart, humor and most importantly, hope.

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