Short Term 12 DVD Review

What’s It About? Grace is a supervisor at a foster care facility for at-risk teenagers. She works there with boyfriend Mason and dedicates most of her time and energy to helping the teenagers in her care. But when hit by a life changing occurrence, as well as the resurfacing of past traumas, her resolve is put to the test.

Short-Term-12Verdict: In trying to tell the individual stories of damaged teenagers living in a care facility and intersecting those stories with the trials and tribulations of Grace, the supervisor who looks after them, writer-director Destin Cretton makes a film which is at times moving but too often clichéd. Grace is played by Brie Larson with a stoic resilience which belies the character’s vulnerability and a past not dissimilar to the young people in her charge.

The teens’ troubles are drawn out via conversations with Grace interspersed with explosive acts of aggression and frustration. And although the filmmakers treat the subject matter with sensitivity and genuine care, the characters and their reasons for being in the facility occasionally stray from believability and become a little too familiar. Grace is faced with a new young resident, Jayden (Kaitlyn Dever), whose problems parallel ones she herself has faced. The relationship between the two takes a predictable path, with Grace proceeding to fight her own demons as well as those of the young girl who so reminds her of herself.

Grace also has to deal with the current turbulence in her private life as her relationship with Mason (John Gallagher Jr), who also works at the facility, is on the brink of being propelled into new levels of seriousness and commitment. The relationship near falls apart when Grace’s problems mount up and she begins to doubt every aspect of her life; these scenes work well and manage to bring back some believability. This is mainly thanks to Brie Larson who certainly handles her complex role very well – in fact her performance is by far the best thing about Short Term 12 and shouldn’t be underplayed. Having shown promise playing supporting characters in films like Scott Pilgrim vs the World and 21 Jump Street, she proves here that she is more than capable of taking the leading role.

The film is well shot and the rest of the cast – although not up to Larson’s standards – perform ably. Director Cretton’s intentions cannot be questioned either: having worked in a similar environment to the one depicted in the film, it’s clearly a project which holds some personal sentiment and he wasn’t far from pulling it off. The ending is too well wrapped up and sweet to be believable when something a little more rough and uncompromising would have suited better. But its flaws are forgivable and there’s more than enough about Short Term 12 to make it an enjoyable watch.Short-Term-12-still-3

Extras: The behind the scenes footage of the film is interesting. The other extra is a short film about the charity ‘The Forgiveness Project’ which aims to find reconciliation for victims and perpetrators of crime alike.

Final Words: Destin Cretton’s sincere story of troubled teens and their troubled mentor is well acted and shot. It’s let down, however, by the often clichéd portrayal of its characters and their problems as well as a desire for a happy ending.

Rating: 3 / 5      

Short Term 12 is on DVD on 10 March 2014.