Short Term 12
Inspiring tale that deals with real life issues often overlooked but is ultimately uplifting.
Destin Cretton who firstly has a rather wonderful name that will no doubt help him get recognised in the film industry, but has a rather short back catalogue of films. Typically his work started in short films with the likes of Bartholomew’s Song (2006) and Deacon’s Mondays (2007). However 2008 saw him create ‘Short Term 12’ a 21 minute drama that later went on to be remade into the feature in question.
Centred on a residential youth home the film uses it’s main character Grace (Brie Larson) a young supervisor who is balancing the morals and responsibilities of her working life.
The beauty of this film lies in the story and how it manages to convey the difficulties of youth, especially those who have been neglected by society. With the central location being this care home we are quickly introduced to the characters and importantly for a running time of 90 minutes it doesn’t dwell too much on back story. However this doesn’t mean we don’t begin to empathise with the kids under care because it’s this subtlety that allows the audience to understand them. Part of the main focus of the film is on Grace played by Brie Larson from the likes of Scott Pilgrim (2010) and Community. It’s a fantastic performance that really develops through the film as we learn not only of how she tackles her duties, but of her own personal experiences allowing her to truly feel for the children. It’s her dealings with trying to hold her emotions back so they don’t blur her judgement of the children and keep their safety at the highest priority. This is best realised in her relationship with co worker Mason (John Gallagher Jr.) and what she wants from her own future, because after all she is still young herself.
With any piece like this you hope that it doesn’t gloss the very ‘human’ story in question, however this is where Short Term 12 is at it’s best. There’s almost an attitude at play here where Cretton establishes the delicate issues and then simply lets the rest unfold, further resonated by the shear determination of the staff. This really keeps the whole film grounded making the subject all the more real and powerful. It’s worth also bringing up the cinematography, orchestrated by Brett Pawlak his work places the viewer very much in the surroundings of the care home. Much like the plot it remains very simple and shots only become indulgent when needed something that can often be neglected in modern films.
It’s well worth picking up on the soundtrack created by Joel P West as it matches all the qualities of the on screen action creating an extra level to the film. The piano score escalates at moments of importance and so does the camera movement which altogether feels very natural. None of this is more true than the beginning and closing scenes, without giving any spoilers away it beautifully encapsulates the core meaning of the film whilst being very aesthetically pleasing from a technical standpoint .
Sometimes with such films like this you find yourself slowly draining from the emotional investment that it warrants which of course has merits, however Short Term 12 is more about the repercussions following the final scene. Personally I found myself hit in one massive wave of emotion as though I too was sharing the attitude of the characters by persevering against everything that was thrown their way. It’s powerful, subtle and yet leaves the viewer uplifted through the strength of the people represented.