“Short Term 12”
Short Term 12 is a movie that is rooted in fear; the fear that to come out of your shell would end in your extermination. Not extermination in the literal sense, but the sense in which you would fear for your safety although there really is no reason to be afraid. This is where this film gets its power, through the distress and heartbreak that these characters both go through and have gone through, bringing up new and stored away emotions that these people thought they had set aside long, long ago; memories from a much darker time.
Short Term 12 takes you to the depths and lives of the children that are living at homes for at-risk teens. It gives you a tragic and wholesome look into the lives of children who have been abused, hurt, or disgraced by the people who are supposed to care about them most. But it is not only about the kids, but about the care takers who are not as different from the people they are watching over as you may imagine.
There are several stories that we center on, but the movie manages to resist becoming scattershot for it is all told through the eyes of the Short Term 12 supervisor, Grace, played with mesmerizing power by Brie Larson. We see the trauma in the children’s eyes and it is reflected back through Grace who was abused as a child as well. This probably being the main reason she began working with underprivileged kids. Like the kids, she has trouble letting people into her messed up little head and it only becomes worse when a girl, Jayden, who has been hurt the same way Grace has, is brought into the home. Although it takes some warming up for Jayden, they almost immediately feel a connection and become enwrapped in each other’s lives whether they like it or not.
First time writer and director, Destin Cretton, writes his heart into this project. Based on his live-action short of the same name, he molds this one with the most delicate hand, creating a large improvement upon his original short film, which is amateur to say the least. This is the kind of writing that intimidates aspiring screenwriter like me. You can’t just write a story in order to make a great movie; you have to write within the characters and deeper than just the events that take place. If you have ever seen the movie Manic, which I really hope you haven’t, you can see what I mean. That is a movie with the same subject matter, but written only from the surface and at face value, not from the heart which is the way every movie should be crafted.
I had thought I had seen all the great movies there were to see in the year of 2013, but I guess I was mistaken because this ranks as one of the best films of the year. It is an entirely genuine, delightful, heartbreaking, and inspiring work of art. It is a movie that treats the trauma and destruction of innocence lost as a way to overcome any fear and how to build a new after your world, seemingly, came to an end. Any person who has succumbed to any hardship will relate to this movie, and maybe even get inspired from it because Short Term 12 has the ability to do just that.
It’s an incredible piece of film making that orchestrates emotion with power and ease. It shoots straight for the heart and hits the bulls-eye every time.