Staff Review/ Short Term 12

Cornerhouse Digital Reporter Robert Battersby reviews Short Term 12

Short Term 12, from director Destin Cretton, is adapted from his 2008 short of the same title. The film takes place in a foster care facility for neglected youths. Grace (Brie Larson), a twenty-something supervisor, with a troubled past and compassionate nature, along with her behind-closed-doors boyfriend Mason (John Gallagher), is part of a small team responsible for creating a safe environment for these at-risk teens. Emotionally complex and somewhat irrational, Grace is already struggling with resurgent memories of her own childhood, and finding it increasingly hard to reap the advice that she sows on a daily basis. When the arrival of a troubled teenage girl Jayden (Kaitlyn Dever), further reminds of her of bygone years, Grace’s long suppressed anxieties prove too much to deal with.

The passion and conviction with which Brie Larson plays her character Grace, leaves her taking most of the plaudits for her role in this film; and at times it is her stand-out performance that carries the rest of the cast. I couldn’t help but feel that a lot of the supporting characters are a bit clichéd; characters such as Marcus the abused-youth/ gangster-aspiring and Jayden, the reclusive diary writer feel somewhat familiar. I personally developed a particular animosity towards Luis, the cocky hispanic kid, who’s behaviour during a game of baseball was frustratingly unoriginal. However, for all the shortcomings of some characters it must be noted that the scene featuring Marcus’ rap about his abusive mother was imbued with a conviction that went a long way towards redeeming my belief in his character.

For those of you who have seen the original short (term 12), Cretton has approached what is only his second feature length film with clarity of vision. Returning to the original plot with careful consideration and making some intelligent decisions to explore his characters in greater depth, the film lasts an hour and a half without losing focus. Although I did feel that the protagonist was initially unclear, adapting the original short would have been quite challenging with so many potential points of exploration within the first twenty minutes. In one way or another Cretton manages to bring all of the original short back into the feature, and in doing so this indie-drama utilises the blunt intensity of its predecessor to great effect. Drawing on the strengths of its origin, Cretton has spaced out the regular emotional crescendos with a balance of drama, romance and even some understated humour.

Overall, this indie drama shows the burgeoning talent of a director in the early stages of his career, making the most of a small budget within a close-quarters environment. With a charming, challenging and well considered plot, Short Term 12 is as strong an indie-drama-fix as you could wish for.

Short Term 12 screens from Fri 15 – Sun 17 Nov. Watch the trailer and book your tickets here.