'Short Term 12': This Fall's First Must-See Film
From its onset, Short Term 12 is completely encapsulating. Its opening sequence, that assures you this will be a loving and well-thought-out portrayal of these kids, throws you into the world of Short Term 12, a place with many layers and complicated emotions. First there are Grace (Brie Larson) and Mason (John Gallagher Jr.), counselors at the facility, who are dating. Then there's Nate (Rami Malek), another counselor who's just started. There are also the kids, most notably Marcus (Keith Stanfield), just about to turn 18 and face the open world, and Jayden (Kaitlyn Dever), another newcomer at Short Term 12. Each has their own demons, and breakthroughs, as the film unfolds and their stories intertwine.
As the movie presses forward, motivations and secrets are revealed, each delivered at exactly the right moment. Short Term 12 elicits tears, but never manipulates its characters to do so. Cretton has crafted a brilliant screenplay; its humor and joy are equally as sharp.
Larson, who has been working in Hollywood since a very young age, finds herself in her first leading role. As Grace, she is phenomenal, delivering a jaw-dropping performance completely devoid of vanity. She is the highlight, but Dever packs an incredible punch as Jayden, the emo-inclined teenager whose relationship with her father causes Grace to think more about her own. Gallagher is also excellent as Grace's supportive and charming partner, as is Stanfield. The entire cast creates characters so full, they haunt you; you wonder about their futures long after the film has ended.
Cretton's real life experience aside, this is a work of fiction. But its acting is so strong, and the story so well crafted, so emotionally honest, it feels real.
Some have criticized Short Term 12 for being too sentimental. It's not. Not, at least, in the way that word is usually used, implying phoniness. It is hopeful. It truly believes in the good we can do as humans. And I don't know that I truly want to live in a world where the word hopeful can be hurled as an insult. Do you?