Independent films are renowned for their high levels of craftsmanship and intricate storytelling. Short Term 12 is a popular indie film. Is this award-nominated film worth the hype?
Short Term 12 (2013) is an indie dramatic film starring Brie Larson, John Gallagher, Jr., Rami Malek, Kaitlyn Dever, Lakeith Stanfield, and Stephanie Beatriz.
Larson portrays Grace Howard, a supervisor at a group home for at-risk teens, called Short Term 12. However, Grace begins to reflect on her own experience of abuse through the lives of these teens.
This is what we thought about the film:
Brie Larson’s performance as Grace Howard is marvelous. Her portrayal of Grace is loaded with emotion. She gives the character a perfect balance between fragility and strength, creating a character that the audience can’t help but get behind.
Larson not only creates this strong character through her overflowing emotions but also through the incredible vulnerability and physicality that she provides.
It’s no wonder that she went on to portray Captain Marvel in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and to win the Academy Award for Best Actress in 2015 for her performance in Room.
The rest of the cast also delivers nuanced performances. Lakeith Stanfield as Marcus is especially strong, creating a haunted and tragic character that’s incredibly compelling.
We also enjoy John Gallagher, Jr. as Mason, who provides a grounding presence as Grace’s boyfriend and fellow supervisor at the facility.
Likewise, the direction and writing of Short Term 12 are also breathtaking.
The movie was both directed and written by the mega-talented Destin Daniel Cretton, who would go on to direct other magnificent movies such as Just Mercy, I Am Not a Hipster, and Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.
Larson has continued to star in many of Cretton’s films, which is understandable given how well this pair work together here. Through his writing and directing, Cretton gives every character a moment to shine.
This results in characters that feel well fleshed out.
This may be because Cretton wrote the film thanks to his own experiences of a facility similar to the one portrayed in this film. As a consequence, Short Term 12 feels genuine and as though it is coming from a good place.
It feels nitty and realistic whilst also hopeful and optimistic.
Cretton grounds Short Term 12 by providing so many intricate details. He shows so much attention to detail through his depiction of daily life at the facility, such as the routine of handing out the medication.
These details give the film so much realism, helping the emotional moments to have even more impact.
We especially like that the writing manages to avoid cliches. It would have been easy to have these teenagers fit into tired character cliches that we’ve all seen before, like the moody goth or the nerd.
Yet, Cretton avoids this fate by having characters be incredibly complex. Even the smaller roles feel well-developed.
The score also adds to the emotional stakes of Short Term 12. Joel P. West provides just enough of a score that can deepen the film’s emotional moments without being too distracting.
There are few criticisms that one can give to such a well-made and high-quality movie as Short Term 12.
Perhaps one of the weakest parts of the film is its ending. The conclusion is extremely happy and uplifting. Though the characters certainly deserve a happy ending after all they have been through, the ending comes across as a little inauthentic.
It comes across that Cretton wanted to give Short Term 12 a happy ending even if it came at the expense of the feel of the film.
Aside from this, there are no major problems with the movie.
Should You Watch Short Term 12?
If you are looking for an intellectual, deep, and nuanced movie, Short Term 12 will be a sensational experience for you. It’s loaded with phenomenal performances, out-of-this-world direction, and wonderful writing.
Short Term 12 is a film that will challenge you emotionally, so it’s a wonderful watch for people who appreciate films that can make them feel powerful emotions.
However, if you have experiences with trauma, this deep exploration of childhood trauma may be somewhat triggering. Not to mention, Short Term 12 may not be the ideal film for you if you are looking for a simple viewing experience.
Overall, we strongly suggest that you give Short Term 12 a try. In our opinion, it is one of the best films of 2013!
Short Term 12 is an amazing piece of artistry. It’s an independent film that’s full of depth and nuance, thanks to the direction and writing of Destin Daniel Cretton and the captivating performance of Brie Larson.
We give Short Term 12 5 out of 5 stars.