Short Term 12 (2013)

Short Term 12
Director: Destin Daniel Cretton
Writer: Destin Daniel Cretton
Cast: Brie Larson, John Gallagher Jr., Stephanie Beatriz, Rami Malek, Kaitlyn Dever, LaKeith Stanfield, Alex Calloway, Kevin Balmore
Seen on: 4.9.2022

Content Note: child sexual abuse, child abuse, child neglect

Grace (Brie Larson) works in Short Term 12, a short term foster facility meant as a place to stay for children who can’t stay with their parents anymore until a permanent housing option is available. Though some children stay for a long time – like Marcus (LaKeith Stanfield) who is about to age out of the home. When Jayden (Kaitlyn Dever) comes to stay with them, Grace is reminded of herself as a teenager. This, coupled with a new development in her relationship with Mason (John Gallagher Jr.) who also works at Short Term 12 makes it necessary for Grace to confront her own dark past.

Short Term 12 is a touching and realistic look at a group home and the people who work there. I found it touching and insightful.

The film poster showing Grace (Brie Larson) cycling past the forster home, with Jayden (Kaitlyn Dever) on the carrier behind her.

I have some experience with group homes and the foster care system (albeit in Austria), and it is rare that we get an actually realistic look at what that is like in movies. Cretton apparently worked in one himself, and this experience grounds his portrayal in many ways. In the way the everyday life in Short Term 12 is shown, in the way he characterizes the employees and how he shows the hurt of the kids there. I was reminded a lot of what I saw while working in the field (and basically growin up in it because my parents worked in it as well).

His focus is more on the employees of Short Term 12 than on the children. Especially Grace, and by extension Mason. Both have first-hand experience with the foster care system themselves (something that often happens – a lot of social workers will have their own past with the system), and Cretton uses it nicely to show both the strengths they get from that experience, and the trigger points this could also mean in their work, especially when not properly confronted and worked through.

Grace (Brie Larson) cycling with Jayden (Kaitlyn Dever) on the carrier behind her

The film could have easily fallen into the trap of “everything is bad and sad and once you experienced abuse, you’re damaged for life and never will be well again” drama. But while it acknowledges the long-lasting effects of abuse and neglect, the harm it does, there is also enough room for hope and humor.

The cast is really wonderful, delivering sensitive and powerful performances that really bring the characters to life. Together with them, Cretton has captured something true about what it is to work through parental abuse, and sees the strength in it.

Grace (Brie Larson) talking to Marcus (LaKeith Stanfield).

Summarizing: beautiful.

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