Short Term 12

Screen shot 2013-09-06 at 11.43.48 AM
Brie Larson and Keith Stanfield in “Short Term 12”

Director: Destin Daniel Creton

Short Term 12 is unique within its genre.  Of all the movies set at rehab centers, psyche wards, and hospitals, I can’t recall another without any major adult characters.  The residents at the eponymous home for at-risk teenagers are obviously juveniles, but it’s the fresh-faced counselors who reminded me why drug clinics often employ recovering addicts.  Directed by Destin Daniel Creton, and based on his short, the movie stars Brie Larson as Grace, the facility’s empathetic supervisor who appears to have gone straight from isolation to administration.  Set over the course of a week, the story chronicles the experiential bonds that form between Grace’s staff and their charges—notably the tempestuous Marcus (Keith Stanfield), manic Sammy (Alex Calloway), and depressed Jayden (Kaitlyn Dever).  For such a serious portrait of troubled youth, the script has a surprising number of comedic grace notes, though what resonates is its understanding of how humans deal with despair by erecting defensive walls.  Even Grace has difficulty communicating with her coworker boyfriend (John Gallagher Jr.).  In a performance of outward strength and inward frailty, Larson gives her character tremendous credibility.  Behind the camera, Creton strives for that same realism, but when it comes to emotional catharsis, he has the finesse of a runaway steamroller.  Short Term 12 is a moving docudrama that could have been great, had the director blessed it with a touch closer to Grace’s gentle humility.

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