Title: Short Term 12
Director/Writer: Destin Daniel Cretton
Music: Joel P. West
Cinematography: Brett Pawlak
John Gallangher Jr.
Lydia Du Veaux
Diana Maria Riva
Actress Brie Larson is red-hot for her new film ROOM (2015), directed by Lenny Abrahamson (FRANK 2014), an Oscar hopeful this season, which seems to guarantee her first Oscar nomination after the snub of her breakthrough performance in this indie feature, 2 years ago.
SHORT TERM 12 is director/writer Cretton’s feature debut and is inspired by his own experiences as a staff member at a group facility, which had been made as a short with the same title in 2008. This feature length stars Larson as Grace, a young supervisor working in a home for troubled teenagers, and it opens with the first day for a newbie worker Nate (Malek), who is a wide-eyed surrogate for viewers who is unfamiliar with their vocation, is given a pep talk by the old-hand Mason (Gallagher Jr.) and later joined by Grace. Although the excremental anecdote is off-putting (why Americans are so obsessed with toilet jokes?), it certainly generates an air of blitheness will contradict what is happening during their work, and Grace is the centre pillar of the narrative, and Cretton slowly but steadily discloses her own troubled past: through her firm determination to arrange an abortion after getting pregnant (also it is not her first time); the weird physical intimacy between her and Mason, who turns out to be her long-time boyfriend; how she decides to tell him about their baby after observing that he might be capable of being a good father and accepts the subsequent marriage proposal then rescinds it. The storyline of Grace’s personal turmoil intersects superbly with her work, her bonding with those teens, particularly with Jayden (Dever), a girl experiences a similar situation of hers, it is to her she can finally divulge her abused past which she find very difficult to communicate with Mason, sometimes we can only blow the lid off with our own kind, at least in the first step.
Larson is a formidable and dauntless actress, reflects an aura of maturity well beyond her age (she was only 23 when the film was made), no wonder critics liken her as a more low-key version of Jennifer Lawrence, equally feisty in exploring maturer roles and excels. In this movie, she excellently pulls off the somewhat over-cooked “I have a secret but it is too traumatic to tell you” maneuver and outshines everyone else in it. Dever, a starlet with potentiality, outstandingly nails the scene where she tells the heartrending octopus allegory, and so is Keith Stanfield as Marcus (the only actor recruited from the original short), whose rap solo is such a powerful pathos-inviter. By comparison, Gallagher Jr.’s golden-hearted Mason, has a less showier part as the loyal and undefeated boyfriend, who has been rescued by his Spanish-speaking foster family and turns out to be an upright young man, a typical supporting default, but he brings about enough tenderness and compassion to be sincerely memorable.
Cretton effortlessly wields the hand-held technique to create super-personal close-ups upon his characters, teases out a full gamut of emotions since most of the characters are victims of the dark-side of humanity, while remains a fitting gradation of detachment without being too aggressive or exploitive, especially the ending, resonates the opening and lands an apposite coda with a rosy message of hope and laughter. Overall, Cretton has done a remarkable job and emerged as one of the few new talents stateside worthy of our attention for their next project, plus the film fairly earns a spot on my top 10 list of the year.