March 26, 2023
Ithaca, NY | 54°F


Review: Director’s history drives deep movie

Short Term 12

Directed by Destin Cretton

Drawing from his own experiences working in the foster care system, Destin Cretton has expertly written and directed a film with heart and emotional intensity that will resonate with all audiences.

In “Short Term 12,” Grace (Brie Larson) is in charge of Short Term 12, a group home for at-risk teens. She works alongside her boyfriend Mason (John Gallagher Jr.), newcomer Nate (Rami Malek) and Jessica (Stephanie Beatriz). Together, these counselors care for the troubled adolescents as best they can. As Grace explains to Nate on his first day, “You are not their parent, you are not their therapist, you are here to create a safe environment, and that’s it.” But Grace and her coworkers attempt all three, particularly with Marcus (Keith Stanfield), who after three years in the program will soon turn 18 and be too old for it, and Jayden (Kaitlyn Dever), who Grace sees as a reflection of her younger self.

Cretton uses his past experiences to create and direct a humane film without scripting any heavy-handed dialogue or forced melodrama. He presents Grace as a type of hero not often portrayed on the big screen — one of everyday life. Grace helps everyone as much as she can while trying to deal with her own inner demons. Larson, who at 23 has typically played supporting roles in comedies, proves she has the ability to become one of Hollywood’s best actors.

At 96 minutes, the film feels too short. While 10 kids live at Short Term 12, the audience only gets to know two of them well. Most of the other children are merely placeholders, even though their stories may be just as interesting as Marcus and Jayden’s. Because the audience only focuses in depthly on a few characters, it seems like Grace and her coworkers do too, which makes the film lose some of its credibility.

However, Cretton and his remarkable cast present a film that can make an audience laugh and cry throughout.