Quantcast
subscriber help

artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

Short Term 12 review: life in the long term

Short Term 12 green light Brie Larson Keith Stanfield

A heartbreaking drama about the lingering affects of childhood abuse and neglect, even under the best of curative circumstances.
I’m “biast” (pro): nothing

I’m “biast” (con): nothing

(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)

An abundance of violence. A lack of love. The results of these horrors are what Grace (Brie Larson: The Spectacular Now) faces every day in her job at the titular institution, a group home for at-risk teenagers who have been abused or neglected. As we watch her work with these utterly authentic kids — they are difficult and demanding, unable to articulate their pain and perhaps aware only subconsciously of their needs — one of the first questions we find ourselves asking is, Which is worse: abuse, or neglect? (There is no answer, but asking the question is seemingly an unavoidable horror: as if anyone gets to make that choice.) Grace seems remarkably able to cope with kids like Marcus (Keith Stanfield), who tells terrible stories of maltreatment by his own mother and who is now facing life on his own: he’s aging out of the system and will have to leave soon. But new arrival Jayden (Kaitlyn Dever: The Spectacular Now) seems to perturb Grace in a way we haven’t seen in her before, and soon we come to appreciate that she gets the kids because she’s been in their situation. Her boyfriend, Mason (John Gallagher Jr.: Jonah Hex), works at the home as well, and couldn’t be more supportive as she starts to crumble; he’s also a survivor of institutional care, though a visit to the huge rambunctious foster family he was raised in suggests he hasn’t been quite as damaged as Grace or their charges. This isn’t a relentlessly grim film: writer-director Destin Daniel Cretton based on his own experience working at a group home, and there’s an abundance of humor here, because even in the worst circumstances, people are still human and life is never without some respite, if only for sanity’s sake. (One thing this flick proves: Male filmmakers can create realistic, fully human, complicatedly messed-up female protagonists, if they bother to try.) But mostly, Short Term 12 wonders, heartbreakingly, whether even Grace and Mason are success stories, or if they too damaged to ever truly recover. Even under the best of curative circumstances, does the impact of childhood abuse and neglect linger so that it can never fully be overcome? It’s an awful thing to contemplate.


Like what you’re reading? Sign up for the daily digest email and get links to all the day’s new reviews and other posts.

shop to support Flick Filosopher

Independent film criticism needs your support to survive. I receive a small commission when you purchase almost anything at iTunes (globally) and at Amazon (US, Canada, UK):

    
Short Term 12 (2013)
US/Can release: Aug 23 2013
UK/Ire release: Nov 1 2013

MPAA: rated R for language and brief sexuality
BBFC: rated 15 (contains strong language and references to child abuse and self harm)

viewed in 2D
viewed at a private screening with an audience of critics

official site | IMDb
more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine | Rotten Tomatoes

If you’re tempted to post a comment that resembles anything on the film review comment bingo card, you might want to reconsider.

  • RogerBW

    I’ve been hoping Brie Larson would have more than the Community role in her. I’m glad she does.

  • Tonio Kruger

    Well, she was in The United States of Tara, where she had a way bigger role than she has had to date on Community. (She played the daughter of the title character.)

Pin It on Pinterest