Saturday, February 8, 2014

film review: Short Term 12

The basics: Grace (played by Brie Larson in a Critics Choice Award nominated performance) works at a group home for troubled teens, along with her boyfriend, Mason.

My thoughts: I knew nothing about Short Term 12 when I sat down to watch it. It intrigued me because Brie Larson was nominated for a Critics Choice Award for Best Actress for it. All of the other nominees were this year's usual suspects. Why had I not heard of this film? After I finished it, I was even more baffled, as it's the best film I've seen in quite some time.

Brie Larson's performance is phenomenal, but I'm not necessarily convinced it's the film's best. I'd give that honor to Keith Stanfield, who plays Marcus, a long-time resident of the home who is about to turn eighteen (Blessedly, Stanfield is nominated for an IFC Independent Spirit Award for his performance.)

From start to finish, there is an emotional delicacy to this film. It would be very easy to sensationalize the trauma of these teenagers. Initially, I was convinced Grace and Mason are a rare super-human breed of do-gooders equipped with infinite patience and wisdom to deal with the understandable, yet horrifying, outbursts of these troubled teens. Thankfully, writer and director Destin Cretton had a more complicated and satisfying story in mind. With so much sadness in this film, I spent much of it feeling utterly depressed. The events depicted were too real, and I wondered if watching this film and feeling these emotions was worth the effort. Unequivocally, it was. The film's final act is a thing of beauty and grace; it firmly cemented Short Term 12 as one of the greatest films I've seen in years.

The verdict: Short Term 12 is incredibly difficult to watch at times because its fictional story rings so true. Yet Cretton is a writer and director to watch precisely because of this film's difficult message. Ultimately, the pain and anguish is tempered beautifully with humor and eloquence. It's a masterful film.

Rating: 5 out of 5 
Length: 96 minutes
Availability: dvd

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