There are maybe three or four films every year that don't make it into the mainstream because of either their subject matter or lack of name talent. However, when we are able to catch these films on demand or in smaller theaters, they connect with us more than we could have hoped or imagined. "Short Term 12" is one of those films.
The film follows Grace (Brie Larson), who manages a foster-care facility for teenagers. The film is shot in a loose, hand-held fashion which helps to bring out the intimacy and claustrophobia of its surroundings. When a new intake arrives, a young girl named Jayden, Grace forms a deep connection with her and through this, must come to face her own demons.
Destin Daniel Cretton's fantastic script, sharp and subtle dialogue and precise direction helps bring new life to an otherwise typical storyline. Where there would normally be darkness, there is hope. In places there normally would be anger, there is a profound sense of calm. The film never strays into Lifetime territory. Infact, most scenes are set up to make us think the story might be headed into an overly sentimental area, only to have reality set in a few seconds later.
Though there are fantastic performances all around, the movie belongs completely to Ms. Larson. Known for her varied roles in "21 Jump Street," "United States of Tara," "The Spectacular Now" and "Tanner Hall," she tackles her first leading dramatic role with such force, it leaves us wondering how she's been under the radar for so long.
Grace is a complex character, a role any actor would be thrilled to take on. Ms. Larson shows us this depth through low key gestures and facial expressions. In any other actors hands, sentimentality would take over, possibly even outbursts. After reading the script, you can respect Ms. Larson's choices even more for internalizing her performance, yet still remaining likable and vulnerable. She makes you laugh, then makes you cry and finally allows you to do both at the same time.
"Short Term 12" is a film that not only provides hope to an otherwise dark world, but once again proves that movies and performances outside the mainstream population deserve our attention. Be on the lookout for Brie Larson. This is only the beginning of a sensational career for the 24 year old actress.
"Short Term 12" is available on ITunes and DVD.