It has been a long time since such profound honesty has been depicted on the screen. “Short Term 12”, written and directed by Destin Daniel Cretton focuses on a care center; troubled children under the age of eighteen; castoffs, abused, shunned by family and society; struggling for autonomy, dignity within the boundaries of mainstream dictates.
“Grace” and “Mason” are a young couple in charge of these wayward sprites; Brie Larson and John Gallagher Jr. gift their characterizations with empathetic genius; they are guileless, glamour-less, without artifice, they sacrifice their vicissitudes for the sake of these teens, with genuine, crippling problems; throbbing believability is enhanced by the intimacy of the hand-held camera; from the first, story- telling scene, they garnish tremendous respect and even more importantly, likeability.
These at-risk individuals range from “Marcus”, (Keith Stanfield) terrified at facing an adult, insensitive milieu because his mandatory departure is imminent; listening to his history sung in searing, soaring “rap”; realizing he has endured more in eighteen years than most in a lifetime, platitudes could not suffice to smother his trepidations. “Sammy” , defenseless without his dolls is the perpetual runner, escapee. Most pivotal to the myriad mixture, and foremost catalyst is “Jayden” (intelligent, scintillating performance by Kaitlyn Dever) uncontrollable, self-mutilating, approaching fifteen, she ignites in Grace an awakening, a reckoning with her own shuttered, damaged past; the movie escalates with the role reversal of these powerful but shatteringly vulnerable young women.
“Short Term 12” is surprisingly mature, prismatic in addressing problematic, inscrutable, confounding issues, felling so many of today’s youth; suicide has become a coping mechanism; a route chosen to avoid taunting, internet and physical bullying; tools of trade exercised by their malicious peers. The world is thirsty for the multiplication of Grace and Mason; “Short Term 12” provides a gulp of refreshing, compelling, rejuvenating libation.