People often resort to having to internally struggle with their conflicting emotions and doubts of self-worth as they contend with continuous rejection from their families and the people they rely on the most. Even when they finally do come into contact with people who unremittingly reassure them of their value and importance, the abuse they endured unfortunately stops them from truly believing in themselves. The new independent drama ‘Short Term 12,’ which is set to open in select New York theaters on Friday, naturally and sentimentally showcased these struggles in both the adolescents and counselors at a facility for at-risk teens; the workers and residents are all dealing with their own feelings of distrust.
‘Short Term 12,’ which was written and directed by Destin Cretton, follows Grace (Brie Larson), a twenty-something supervisor at a facility for at-risk teenagers. Passionate and tough, Grace is a formidable caretaker of the kids in her charge–and in love with her long-term boyfriend and co-worker, Mason (John Gallagher Jr.). But Grace’s own difficult past, and the surprising future that suddenly presents itself, throw her into unforeseen confusion. Grace’s life choices are made all the more difficult with the arrival of a new intake at the facility: Jayden (Kaitlyn Dever), a gifted but troubled teenage girl with whom Grace has a charged connection.
The drama, took a humanizing and empathetic approach to exploring how the emotional and physical abuse parents inflect on their children negatively affects them in the moment, but also shapes the turmoil and struggles they’re forced to continuously contend with as adults. Cretton effortlessly showcased the traumatizing effects parental neglect can leave on formidable youth. From the heart-wrenching continuous search for love Jayden hopes to receive from her father, to the trust issues Grace has routinely failed to overcome with Mason, despite being with him for three years, due to her own tumultuous relationship with her imprisoned father, the filmmaker isn’t afraid to showcase the harrowing consequences of teens not being able to trust their parents.
Larson bravely helped emphasize the traumatic effects growing up in a broken home through her captivating and subtle performance as Grace. Throughout the course of ‘Short Term 12,’ the actress alluringly played the supervisor as being tough and in charge with all of the children at the facility, pushing them to work through their emotional insecurities of not being loved by their families. While Grace tirelessly works to prove to the teens that she does truly care about their well-being and the effects their decisions have on their futures, she dauntingly struggles to realize the same is true for herself.
The actress courageously portrays the character as being emotionally stunted from her own difficult childhood with her father. She only offers brief glimpses into her vulnerability of feeling unworthy of love when struggling to express her true feelings and fears to Mason, both in their personal and professional lives together.
Cinematographer Brett Pawlak’s skilled camera work subtly helped emphasize the turbulent emotions both the teens and Grace naturally experience throughout the course of the drama. During the teens’ unpredictable emotional outburst during which they regularly test the counselors’ trust and true interest in their well-being, Pawlak cleverly used shaky camera movements and close-up shots of the actors to stress the characters’ insecurities about being loved. From Jayden attempting to flee the facility when her father neglects to pick her up for a scheduled weekend home visit to Marcus (Keith Stanfield), one of the other teens in the facility, passionately rapping about his troubled past, Pawlak bravely focused the camera on the actors’ body language to showcase the emotional hurdles the characters bravely overcome.
While Larson presented Grace as being strong and determined to make a better life for the teens while she was working with them, her own doubts about her worthiness to be loved by Mason are clearly shown while the two spend time together in their apartment. Pawlak brilliantly captured the actress physically closing herself off from Gallagher as their characters debated over where to take their relationship and how they could truly trust each other. Whether Grace is pushing Mason away as they start to become intimate again, or turns her back on him when he tries to ask her personal questions about how she’s feeling, the cinematographer effortlessly captures her hesitance to fully trust the one person who vows to always love her.
‘Short Term 12’ sensitively explores how the emotional and physical abuse parents inflect on their children not only negatively affects their ability to trust other people, but also how it leaves a traumatizing influence on their feelings of self-worth. Cretton smartly cast Larson as Grace, as she bravely emphasized the traumatic effects growing up in a broken home through her captivating and subtle performance. Pawlak’s skilled camera work subtly helped emphasize the turbulent emotions both the teens and Grace naturally experienced throughout their at-times devastating circumstances, which only seemed to heal through their tireless efforts to find value in their lives.