Another year, another list of indie films that never gain the recognition they deserve. This year features one of the most emotionally resonant, heart-wrenching studies on trauma and adolescence.
Short Term 12 is a profound story about children with mental illness, abusive families, and very little resources to cope with them. Brie Larson (21 Jump Street, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World), carries the film with a brilliant, underrated, and layered performance. She repeatedly asserts herself as one our generation’s strongest actresses.
The film drops viewers into a home, Short Term 12, containing underprivledged children. New volunteer Nate is welcome by the other supervisors who show him around the facilities. Nate is the perfect lens through which the viewers can glean a fly-on-the-wall view of the dynamics in Short Term 12.
The film’s screenplay is subtle, intimate and powerful. In addition to the employees, Nate is welcomed by the kids. It becomes clear that Grace (Larson) has the most authority of her peers.
Soon after Nate’s arrival enters Jayden, a depressed young teen. She is brought to the facility in the film’s first act. Grace immediately connects with her, seeing part of herself in Jayden. They bond throughout the film, and their dialogue is some of the most compelling in the entire film. Grace is able to peel away at Jayden’s hard exterior and find out the source of her sadness. In exploring Jayden, Grace quickly unravels her own demons.
For Grace, however unknowingly, Short Term 12 is more of a safe haven for her than it is for the kids. As the film progresses, Larson allows the audience to delve deeper into Grace’s mind, unraveling a mess of problems stemming from Grace’s youth.
The real shame of Short Term 12 is that it was seen by so few people.
It’s score and cinematography are raw and colorful. The direction is beautiful. Destin Daniel Cretton, the film’s director, guides each actor gracefully.
One of the most beautifully compelling messages of the film is that these children and teens are no different from those of a higher class. It shows that adolescents’ struggles are universal, and anyone may empathize with their problems.
Short Term 12 is undoubtedly one of, if not the, best films of 2013. It’s thought-provoking, pensive, and leaves a powerful message long after the screen fades to black; one never knows what’s going on in another’s mind.