This is a movie I hadn’t heard of until just a couple of days ago. I was watching an interview with Lakeith Stanfield, who is an actor that has recently caught my attention. During the interview he mentioned that Short Term 12 was his first feature film, and that he got the role by making the director cry during the audition. I’m used to seeing him in funnier roles, so I was surprised that his first role in a feature film was a drama. I’m used to seeing him as Darius in the TV show Atlanta and he cracks me up all the time. So because of my curiosity, I had to check this movie out. Boy did it catch me by surprise.
Short Term 12 is about workers at a residential facility that help troubled teenagers and give them a place to stay until they’re put somewhere else. The movie follows two of these workers and their relationship with the children in the facility. The leads are Brie Larson who plays Grace, and John Gallagher Jr. who plays Mason. The story itself isn’t complex by any means, but the range of themes that the movie covers gives it an emotional complexity that I rarely see. The first thing you have to know is that the kids in this movie are tortured characters. There are a couple that don’t come across that way, but the ones that the movie does focus on have dealt with some pretty fucked up things in their life.
This type of movie created a very interesting challenge for the young actors. They had to be able to hit some emotional high notes to really get the message across to the audience. Luckily, everyone in this movie is fantastic. I was actually floored by how amazing everyone was. First off, Brie Larson is on a different plane of existence in this film. I thought she was fantastic in Room, but I think she’s better here. The great thing about the way this movie was written was that they show that the workers at this facility have also been through some shit. It gives the audience a clear understanding as to why they got into this field to being with. This also means that they had to really go “there” emotionally with their performances as well. With that said, John Gallagher Jr. is also fantastic. While he’s in a better place than a lot of the other characters in the film, they show that he hasn’t had the easiest road. He’s such a likable and down to earth guy that you root for him like you do for every other character.
Now let’s get to the kids in the movie. There are two kids that stood out to me. The first one was Kaitlyn Dever who plays Jayden. Her character forms a bond with Grace that really gives us insight to both of their characters. I don’t really want to say more because I feel like giving out any specifics of their relationship could ruin the impact. The other standout was the reason I watched this film in the first place. Lakeith Stanfield broke my heart in this movie. This dude is a legit force and he proved it again with this performance. He plays Marcus, who is on his way out of the facility. He has problems expressing himself and he doesn’t talk much. I connected with him because I know so many people like him who have so much pent up anger and have no idea how to let it out. His character likes to rap and in one scene he raps for one of the workers. That rap summed up everything you need to know about his character and I think it was beautiful. The lyrics and the delivery together were so powerful that I couldn’t help but get misty eyed. It’s a scene that I know I’ll never forget. These characters don’t feel like characters to me, I see people. They remind me of children I came across during a short period of my life.
The way the movie is shot adds a lot of atmosphere to it. Most of it is done with handheld camera and that works in its favor. The shots feel more intimate and have more effect. When they show you different parts of the facility it feels like you’re taking a tour there because of the camera work. It also helps that the editing in the film is pretty much flawless.
Overall, Short Term 12 shocked me. There isn’t an aspect of this film that I didn’t like. The acting was top notch and the themes in the film impressed me in both variety and execution. I tried to be as vague as I could here because I don’t want to give anything away. I went into this movie not knowing anything about it and I would prefer that people who plan to watch it avoid the trailer and trust that I’m leading you to a good movie. All I can say is check this out because I haven’t stopped thinking about it since the credits started rolling.
Short Term 12 gets a 100/100 and is awarded the title of…