Short Term 12

short term 12

  • Simultaneously upsetting and uplifting, Short Term 12 is a quality drama featuring well developed characters and some clever filmmaking that never allows heavy content to be too depressing.
  • Start with the screenplay. Writer/Director Destin Cretton not only creates multi-dimensional characters, but he also writes excellent dialogue, which is all the more remarkable for finding ways to make exposition powerful. By having characters tell stories, rap poetry or discuss art work, Cretton ensures we know essential backstories, but he still shows not tells characters. It is award-worthy writing.
  • Partially because Cretton infuses just enough humor to make Short Term 12 entertaining.
  • His direction is as good as his screenplay. He is wise to use hand-held cameras that often shake; they help create tone, help us understand that the characters and story are messier than it might first appear.
  • Cretton’s wardrobe selections are impeccable, always ensuring we understand the movie’s characters and their relationships. Jayden (Kaitlyn Dever) can say she hates Grace (Brie Larson), but her wardrobe tells us otherwise. Similarly, we know that Nate (Rami Malek) is out of his element, not because he immediately says or does anything wrong, but because he’s wearing the wrong clothes. And so forth.
  • The score compliments the visuals well. When the film is at its most intense, the music is silent. When characters are enjoying themselves, it’s more whimsical, once even breaking into pseudo-mariachi. Much of what we feel in Short Term 12, we feel because of the music.
  • The rest of our emotions come from a brilliant cast. Brie Larson is a revelation, proving herself a heavy-weight actor, one capable of not only disappearing into her character, but also of portraying nuance and depth. She is award-worthy good.
  • Kaitlyn Dever is terrific, as well, as are John Gallagher Jr (Mason) and Keith Stanfield (Marcus), the former of whom proves a capable emotional anchor while the latter is scene-stealingly understated.
  • All which is to say Short Term 12 is an excellent film with powerful themes, terrific performances and a stunning screenplay.
  • Yes, the climax is a bit rushed, and yes Mason’s final story is probably too perfect, but the flaws are minor. I recommend this movie without the slightest reservation.
  • Final Grade: A

16 thoughts on “Short Term 12

  1. Excellent. Thank you for bringing this wonderful little picture back so vividly. I loved Short Term 12, and I think it an absolute travesty Brie Larson didn’t so much as receive a nomination for Best Actress here. She was incredible.

    • She really was and she certainly deserved the nomination over Meryl Streep and Sandra Bullock. Maybe Amy Adams, too.

      The lack of a screenplay nomination surprises me even more. This movie is incredibly well written.

  2. The previews did not get me interested in seeing this, but your review perked my interest in this more. I liked Brie Larson from her comedy roles in “Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World” and “United States of Tara”. I would be interested to see a dramatic take from her

    • I honestly don’t remember seeing a single trailer.

      And Larson is dynamic and powerful. In my opinion, she, Elle Fanning and Cate Blanchett are in a photo finish for Best Female Lead – 2013. That Streep and Bullok received Oscar noms over her is pretty stunning.

  3. I keep reading such praise for this film I’m really gonna need to give this a shot, even though I already published my best of 2013 list. I really like Brie Larson, it’s quite amazing what she did with so little in Don Jon.

    • She was good in Don Jon. She’s much better here. I think she, Elle Fanning and Cate Blanchett are in a photo finish for the year’s best female lead. That she wasn’t even nominated for an Oscar disappoints me.

      Which is to say … I doubt you’ll dislike Larson in this one, if you’re already a fan.

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