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Short Term 12


Brutally honest, Beautifully Hopeful

Genre: Drama
MPAA Rating: R
for language and brief sexuality
Runtime: 90 minutes
Our Rating:
Directed by: Destin Cretton
Cast: Brie Larson, John Gallagher Jr., Keith Stanfield, Alex Calloway,Rami Malek, Kaitlyn Dever
Review by Diana Saenger

Although unsure about wanting to see a movie titled Short Term 12, I quickly changed my mind after learning that this film received 100 percent approval by the nations’ critics before it even opened to the public. 


Keith Stanfield, Rami Malek, Kaitlyn Dever, Destin Daniel Cretton,

Brie Larson and John Gallagher Jr.

The movie takes place in a short-term resident foster facility for abused and/or deeply unstable kids. It’s not a happy thought to begin with -- seeing youngsters unable to have a normal and encouraging life. But here, Grace (Brie Larson) gives her all every day as a counselor trying to make a difference in the lives of every child in the home.


In one of the first scenes, Grace is outside when Sammy (Alex Calloway) runs wildly screaming out the door and across the lawn. This turns out to be a repeated action by the sensitive young boy who rarely answers questions and seeks comfort in small stuffed toys.
Mason (John Gallagher Jr.), Grace’s boyfriend and co-worker, sprints after Sammy with Grace right behind him. Mason is good at talking the children into calmness.
John Gallagher Jr., Brie Larson
At home Mason and Grace are great together physically, but emotionally there are barriers easily detected. Mason drives to work, while Grace insists on riding her bicycle.
Both are terrific at reading the children’s temperaments and responding to their needs. Nate (Rami Malek), a new member of the staff, is always surprised at the intensity of situations but delivers some very funny responses which add much–needed humor to the heavy topic. Grace has to remind him, “You’re not their boss or a parent. You’re here to create a safe environment for them.”
Brie Larson, Keith Stanfield
Marcus (Keith Stanfield), a 17-year-old African American, has been willing to listen and learn from Grace and Mason until now. He’s about to turn 18 and will be kicked out of the facility. He has no money, no job and no place to go. His fear of the unknown provokes him to act out in a very violent way. Stanfield gives an excellent performance in this role. 

Everything about this facility changes when Jayden (Kaitlyn Dever), an uptight girl dropped off by an uncaring step-father, arrives. Jayden -- on operation-non-compliance -- dares the caretakers to even try and corral her. Grace senses that something in Jayden is broken. It’s a flashback from her own life, one she refuses to tell Mason about. Dever, who had a role in the recently released The Spectacular Now, gives an incredible performance as a girl so blocked by fear and hatred she can barely breathe.


The entire cast -- most known for their TV work -- is exceptional.
Joel P. West’s music allows for the rise and fall of both happy and sad moments while Brett Pawlek’s sensitive cinematography avoids intruding yet leaves no emotion uncovered. It helps to create a solid and humane story.   
Leaving the theatre, I realized I’d just seen something very special. 
Photo Credits: Cinedigm / Michael Buchner
Recommended Audience:
Those who like thought provoking films.