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short term 12

There’s a memorable scene in Miloš Forman’s 1975 classic One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest in which the protagonist R.P. McMurphy voices his astonishment at the voluntary incarceration of his fellow hospital patients.”What do you think you are, for Chrissake, crazy or somethin’? Well you’re not! You’re not! You’re no crazier than the average asshole out walkin’ around on the streets and that’s it!” There’s a beautiful disposition regarding emotional fragility behind the comment. Destin Daniel Cretton’s Short Term 12 shares this sentiment to a degree, posing the question – do any of us really have it together?

The film surrounds a group home for troubled teens, the titular Short Term 12. Grace (Brie Larson), one of the young supervisors at the home, lives with her boyfriend Mason (John Gallagher Jr.), who is a fellow supervisor, but finds it difficult to open up to him. Much of Brie and Mason’s responsibilities revolve around the care for the residents of Short Term 12, which vary from child to child and need to need. Grace befriends Jayden (Kaitlyn Dever), a recent arrival at Short Term 12 with a history of self-harm, and as the two become closer Grace begins to suspect that the two share emotional baggage.

Brie Larson is particularly memorable in her role as Grace, and brings warmth, charm and charisma to the film. There are some opportunities lost regarding the exploration of what drives others to selflessly offer themselves in the cause of aiding others, but Larson conveys such a natural compassion that her altruism never feels like much of a stretch. There’s a slight sense of caricature to the residents of Short Term 12, as well as a degree of optimism that may not be entirely appropriate, but for the most part Cretton does a fine job of portraying the cruelty of unfortunate life.

Despite the somewhat grim subject, there’s a pleasantness to Short Term 12 that is both cinematically genial but perhaps not a genuine illustration of life in such a home. Cretton’s intentions are admirable, both in the way he opens the world of troubled teenagers to the audience as well as his suggestion that emotional conflict is something that pertains to all of us. But there’s a glossy to sheen to it all, particularly the closing moments, that draws conclusion to the arguably inconclusive.


Short Term 12 is currently available on DVD from Madman Entertainment. For more Reviews, click here. If you’re digging ReelGood, sign up to our mailing list for exclusive content, early reviews and chances to win big!