Film Review: Short Term 12

Short Term 12 is one of those films that I had never heard, and probably never would have if it wasn’t for the discovery of on-demand home cinema. Simply flicking through the available films I stumbled upon it, and on a brief watch of the trailer and the fact it not only has it won plenty of independent awards, it also unites the critics and public alike with there praise, it seemed an obvious choice to watch.

Now, simply described: it tells the story of a foster care facility for troubled kids in need of help from the point of view of the “mid-to-late twenties” staff who work and how they interact with the kids in their care, their superiors and ultimately, themselves. And while that may sound a little bland, or bare it actually provides plenty of scope for a really interesting and thought provoking tale.

However, the way that director, Destin Daniel Cretton has brought this to life made me think that a lot of it is coming from within. There are times, especially at the start, not knowing much about the film that I wasn’t 100% sure whether I was watching a film of fact or fiction. This sense of unsurety aligned to the fact that I felt it was very much viewed through his eyes and it left me for large portions thinking that only Cretton can fully appreciate the events on screen. Parts really do feel like his release, his way of letting something bottled up inside him out. And while that isn’t a bad thing, it does mean that unless you have either lived through “the system” or been in therapy and had to face inner demons of you own, you may actually really struggle to connect with this film.

Scribbled Drawing - Short Term 12

I am, though, currently fighting my own battles, living my own hell and working through a huge number of issues with the help of specialists. And while I don’t live in a care home, fighting my issues and working through the system of mental health support, I am fully aware of the challenges that you face and the triggers that sneak up on you on a day to day basis. I said earlier that parts of this film felt like a personal, real, release and that was largely down to the way it handled those triggers and events that throw routine and calm into chaos and panic. It’s hard to explain them properly, how something mundane, simple or seemingly insignificant can destroy somebody mentally for apparently no reason unless you have lived through it, but this film hits ever nail of accuracy with unnerving repetition.

Don’t let this put you off it though, because this film, while accurate in its portrayal of mental health, to me at least, isn’t any more depressive or destructive than it ever needs to me. Sorry to keep banging on about the fact it felt like a release, but it’s this sense that meant the film, at its core, has a warmth and friendliness. It might not be the most attractive subject matter but in the same way a simple smile or an unexpected hug can instantly change a bad day to good this film never forgets that it wants to be positive. It want to be that smile and never let you forget that when you fight your demons, when you look scarily deep inside you, you can win, you will win, and you are as strong as you feel you are.

Brie Larson & John Gallagher Jr - Short Term 12

I must also mention the cast, while it focuses around Grace and Mason – played by Brie Larson and John Gallagher Jr. – who absolutely make the film through both a natural chemistry and a complete believability to the compassion, understanding and personalities they bring to life in their characters, it’s the supporting roles of Marcus (Keith Stanfield) and Jayden (Kaitlyn Dever) that really provide them with the perfect foil to fly and help make the film into something slightly special.

I wouldn’t go as far as to say this is an exceptional film, or something that will go down in cinematic history. After all, it came out last year and I have never heard of it. I wouldn’t even go as far as to say I rate it as highly as some, but I can firstly, see exactly why it’s picked up the awards it has; and secondly, and this is the biggest compliment I can pay any film, for the first time in months I can honestly say, Short Term 12 is a movie I would, and could easily watch again.

7 out of 10 stars (7 / 10)

Posted on by 5WC in Film First Edition

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