Movie #227 2020: Short Term 12 (2013)

You may recall me ending my last review of Notting Hill claiming that romantic comedies aren’t really my ‘thing’. Well, this movie is entirely the opposite. This is exactly my thing.

Short Term 12 is a low-budget, indie drama from director Destin Daniel Cretton, who also brought legal drama Just Mercy to the big screen last year. Its story follows Grace (Brie Larson), a care worker in New Mexico who looks after disadvantaged children at a foster care facility. As the viewer, we are given Grace’s backstory, and quickly learn that she had as troubled a childhood as the kids she takes care of now. One day, she’s completely taken by surprise when a young girl named Jayden (played by Kaitlyn Dever) is assigned to her, and she sees more of herself in the teenager than she ever expected to.

Firstly, what a brilliant showcase of young talent. Brie LarsonRami MalekLakeith StanfieldKaitlyn Driver, Stephanie Beatriz… such a great cast, and it just goes to show the calibre of talent that is on the rise in Hollywood right now. Larson is as great as you’d wager, but the performance that really packs a punch is that of Kaitlyn Dever. One high-intensity sequence shows her throwing a tantrum and being pinned to the ground by some of the carers, and the strain and struggle in her face speaks volumes. This is most certainly a far cry from Booksmart!

There’s just so much to love about this film. As I said, this is exactly the type of film-making I love to see. The way it’s shot, the music, the subject matter, the fully realised and developed characters, the performances… I did not expect to be so invested, despite this being one of the genres I am most in to. With a budget less than 1 million dollars, the director lets the story speak for itself; there’s no fancy cinematography, no special effects or extravagant costuming – it really is a very solid piece of drama, rooted in real life struggle.

Short Term 12 is quite a challenging watch at times, but what rewarding movie isn’t? Sure, it gets a little slow at points but the sense of realism it has is excellent; life has its slow points, and in the end, these slower-paced sequences only end up contributing to how real everything seems here. It is clear that this is based off the real life experiences of the director too, as it’s very essence and tone is perfectly conveyed. Though something I never went through personally, its characters are extremely relatable and it’s difficult not to feel engrossed by them.

One stylistic choice that really stood out here was the synchronicity between its start and its ending. Short Term 12 is beautifully book-ended with similar yet contrasting sequences, and as a result just feels like a perfectly constructed movie.

On a personal note, I really need to jump on the Just Mercy train now. If it’s anywhere near this good I’ll be extremely happy. An all-round well made movie, I recommend Short Term 12 for anyone over the age of 15.

Short Term 12 is available to stream on Amazon Prime Video in the UK.

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