"Short Term 12" is an engaging film about fractured people. Most of them are kids living in a group foster home. But one of the most troubled individuals is a young woman who's in charge of their wellbeing.
Grace (Brie Larson) is a supervisor who, along with her boyfriend, Mason (John Gallagher Jr.), tend to and befriend at-risk teens. Their wards all have one thing in common ... immensely sad eyes. Somewhere along the line, life has not been kind to these broken souls.
When Grace and Mason are behind closed doors, we glean insight into their own less-than-perfect pasts. Although Mason has reached a level of resolve, Grace's emotional wounds are bubbling just beneath the surface of her façade. She's masterful at helping others but powerless in helping herself.
The arrival of a deeply disturbed teen, Jayden (Katlin Derer), particularly piques Grace's concern. She manages to crack Jayden's seemingly impenetrable defensive mechanisms by sharing unspeakable truths about her life. When Jayden reads a beyond unsettling fairytale from her journal to Grace, there is a horrifying revelation.
Director/writer Destin Daniel Cretton has crafted a joyous and sad, complicated and simple commentary on the human condition in "Short Term 12." Perhaps the ease at which we accept what's happening in the film lies in the fact that Cretton has an up close and personal take. He worked at such a facility and also chose to cast some actual patients rather than actors. There are no false notes struck in this passionate piece of filmmaking.
Everything falls into place as "Short Term 12" comes full circle in the end. It's a cathartic journey for the colorful characters, as well as the audience. The film makes one wonder about the people who dedicate their lives to helping others. Are those who have been abused better equipped to deal with their counterparts? Bottom line, Cretton skillfully demonstrates that those who give back in a society, eventually reap the unexpected and well-deserved benefits.
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