Wow. All I can say is wow. Short Term 12 is a film that makes you feel as though you’ve been educated, entertained, and personally spoken to within the course of 90 minutes.
Brie Larson solidified my admiration and faith in her talent as Grace, a twenty-something woman working with at-risk youth in a short term care facility. Her portrayal is subtle, convincing, and likeable in a way that all Larson’s characters seem to be. Grace is working through her own personal issues while dealing with the daily emotional curve balls at work alongside new and completely green co-worker Nate (Rami Malek), experienced Jessica (Stephanie Beatriz) and boyfriend Mason (John Gallagher Jr.). Gallagher is equally as powerful as Larson in his portrayal of the humorous, sweet, and talented social worker.
Other standout performances come from Keith Stanfield as the nearly 18-year-old (thus nearly evicted) Marcus, and Kaitlyn Dever as the troubled and snarky Jayden who is new to the home. Both young actors bring authentic emotion, consistent character development, and raw talent to roles that could have easily gone astray. The characters demonstrate how varied issues can be, how different people cope, and how powerful art can be for self-expression, meaning making, and understanding one’s self.
The film is a great watch for anyone in the social work field, parents, or anyone who’s been young. It shows how difficult work in this highly personal and human field is without being preachy or contrived. The only moments of imperfection happen away from the home, at the climax of the film, and while they veer toward the sensational, they don’t feel out of place or undeserved. Instead the less realistic moment(s) leave the viewer with a cathartic feeling and a sense of hope.
Bring some kleenex and be prepared to laugh, smile, cry, and above all, understand more about the lives of children who are ‘at-risk’, “underprivileged”, and without parental love and guidance.