Top 100 Films #75 – Short Term 12 (2013)


186#75. Short Term 12 (2013)
Directed by: Destin Daniel Cretton
Written by: Destin Daniel Cretton
Starring: Brie Larson, John Gallagher, Jr., Kaitlyn Dever, Rami Malek, Keith Stanfield, Kevin Hernandez, Melora Walters

Before she won an Academy Award for last year’s phenomenal Room, Brie Larson was slumming it in mostly smaller supporting roles – largely comedic and independent films.  2013’s Short Term 12 gave the young star a chance to finally play a leading character, which she did expertly.  Director Destin Daniel Cretton based the film on an earlier short film of the same name, and took many elements of the story from his personal experiences working in teenage group homes.  This is evident in every single frame of Short Term 12 – every minute feels genuine and heartfelt, but never overly-sentimental.  The film sees Grace (Brie Larson) as the supervisor of Short Term 12, a group home for troubled teenagers.  We see her interactions with her coworkers, including her boyfriend Mason (John Gallagher, Jr.) and newbie Nate (Rami Malek), as well as with a number of the troubled youths living in the home.  Along the way she battles her own mental illness problems, as well as the perils faced by many of her charges, including neglectful parents, drug problems, and self-harm.  I remember the first time I saw Short Term 12, crying and laughing through much of the run-time, and then immediately watching it again multiple times over the following days and weeks.  It’s a film I think of often, and one that affects me every single time I see it – even though there are no surprises left for me to find.  Brie Larson’s Grace is a perfect lead character for a project like this – selfless, caring, and deeply affected by the events of her past.  The name Grace perfectly sums up Brie Larson’s challenging and fragile performance as Short Term 12’s central character.  Without Larson at its helm, Cretton’s film may very well have been a footnote in 2013.  Luckily, Cretton’s down to earth and relatable script combined with his energetic – but restrained – filmmaking, perfectly complements Larson’s performance and creates a truly special film.  If you’ve never seen Short Term 12, I urge you to do so immediately.  

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