Short Term 12

Short Term 12 (2013)
Dir: Destin Daniel Cretton

This is going to be a slightly shorter review than many I write, something I usually do when I’ve not got so much to say about a film but I still think there’s something worth saying enough to justify a short blog post. In this case, it’s not that there’s not much to say about this film, or that I don’t want to talk about it, but more that there are some themes and subjects that I don’t want to delve into heavily, so it’s better to keep things short and simple.

‘Short Term 12’ is a fantastic film about the staff and children in a temporary care facility. It beautifully balances the two sides in a way that most films wouldn’t, showing how the experiences of the adult staff come into play in the way they deal with those in their care.

The casting is key to this film being so effective. At the forefront is Grace played by Brie Larson, who has since won an Academy Award for ‘Room‘ and I think will probably go on to win more of them, here you can see exactly why. Her co-workers are also recognisable, John Gallagher Jr. (‘The Newsroom’), Stephanie Beatriz (‘Brooklyn Nine-Nine’) and Rami Malek (‘Mr Robot’) who each give excellent performances too and are well-drawn characters that I found surprisingly likeable. In their care are a bunch of children, only a few of whom get developed much in the film, but their stories are handled well with just enough context given without dwelling on anything horrific unnecessarily.  The stand outs are new arrival Jayden (Kaitlyn Dever, ‘Justified’ and ‘Last Man Standing’) whose father is still in her life but possibly shouldn’t be, and Marcus (Keith Stanfield, ‘Get Out’ and ‘Atlanta’) who is on the cusp of becoming a legal adult and due to leave, at one point delivering a heartbreaking rap that tells you more in the lyrics about his feelings and past than you may be able to handle.

As I said at the outset, there are some weighty themes dealt with here, but all felt like they were handled very well as far as I could tell. However, I have not been personally affected by these, so I can’t say how it may be for others. There are things that might be considered triggering (a term I believe I’m using correctly after hearing it used in relation to another film recently) or at least may touch on things they would rather not watch a film about. Some are implied, others are clearly depicted and discussed, making certain moments extremely hard-hitting.

The writer/director seems to have handled the characters and story very well, influenced by his time working in a similar facility. I have no doubt that others will have had a completely different experience to the one depicted, possibly from the other point of view when they were children, so for them it may not ring true and may even be a frustrating or upsetting watch. For myself, I watched worriedly, quickly drawn into the lives of these characters and fearful that it would leave me feeling down. Thankfully it surprised me with how it manages to turn things around just enough to leave me feeling generally uplifted by the end, so as the credits rolled I felt like it was a very worthwhile 96 minutes and I was glad I’d sat down to watch it.

Though not a film I’d widely recommend, it’s definitely something I commend for the writing and performances in particular which I found effective at getting me interested and deeply invested in all threads of the story in what is really a short runtime. I’m now interested in seeing the director’s next film ‘The Glass Castle’ due out next month, as if this is anything to go by he may be a talent to watch out for.

‘Short Term 12’ is easily available to watch on some VOD services and I caught it on television one night so it should be easy enough to find if you want to watch it, though I repeat it’s not going to be ideal for everyone. 

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