Working with at-risk teens is an endeavor. Writer/director Destin Cretton knows full well of this as he spent two years working at a facility for at-risk teens. There he made “Short Term 12” for his college thesis. This film was so well received that he decided to make into a full-length film.
the decision was ultimately a smart one.
Grace (Brie Larson) plays a supervisor for a facility for at-risk teenagers. While helping these teens with their problems, Grace is also troubled by problems of her own. One day the facility gets a new member, Jayden (Kaitlyn Dever,) who Grace feels an immediate bond with, due to her having the same problems.
The plot sounds boring and done many times before, but “Short Term 12” has a ton of heart and plenty of fascinating plot threads to keep you entertained. It’s not about some supervisor changing at-risk teenagers’ lives, it’s about the struggles that said supervisor faces and how much she really cares for these teens. You care so much for these teens and adults that it almost feels like these people are a part of your life.
Larson puts on one of the best performances in her life. Her range as an actress comes out in full force here as she shows that she is one of the best actresses today. The range of emotions Larson portrays here elevates Grace to a whole new level.
As with any lead, there needs to a strong supporting role. Playing beside Larson is John Gallagher Jr. as Grace’s boyfriend/co-worker Mason, who puts on just as much heart into his role as Larson does. Mason is supposed to be this laid back, super cool guy who every teen in the facility loves and Gallagher Jr. does it right. He makes it seem like this role was made just for him. Mason is a likeable character that makes the audience say, “Yes, I know a guy like that. Lots of fun.”
The teens are also a joy to watch. Each teen has their own reason for being in that facility and they actors pull off these roles perfectly. When we see how they deal with their problems it tugs at your heart strings. From Marcus (Keith Stanfield) trying to deal with memories of his abusive mother to Sammy (Alex Calloway) and his constant escapes all feel real. Each teen makes these characters theirs.
“Short Term 12” features magnificent acting and an engaging story. It has plenty of heart and enough soul to make even the most hard-hearted movie goer fall in love with it.