In a year filled with Big-Budget Action and a lot of flops, quite a number of great films get swept under the rug. Among those films, lies a masterpiece that will most likely remain unseen by general audiences. With a strong cast and an even stronger story, Short Term 12 is one of the best films I’ve seen all year. It’s the kind of film that will evoke every type of emotion from you. I would be crying one minute and then I’d be laughing as I wiped away my tears from before. My heart broke time and time again as I would watch certain events unfold and I was truly moved by this incredible and unforgettable film.
Short Term 12 is the name of a foster-care center where Grace (Brie Larson) and Mason (John Gallaher Jr.) volunteer their time. In the beginning of the film, new worker Nate (Rami Malek) is shown the ropes by Grace and Mason. As they congregate outside, Nate learns that the kids often try to run away and since they’re all volunteers, they can’t touch the kids if they get past a certain point. As Mason recalls a funny tale about him following a kid who left, a boy named Sammy (Alex Calloway) busts out through the door and tries to escape! Nate is told that this is just another day at the office and he and Grace head inside while Mason goes after Sammy. Once inside, Grace gives Nate a file detailing all the children and their stories and we begin to learn more about them, bit-by-bit.
Among the foster children at the center, the film primarily centers around a young man named Marcus (Keith Stanfield) and a young girl named Jayden (Kaitlyn Dever). Marcus is a week away from turning 18 and that means he will have to leave the only home he has known for the last three years. He begins to act out due to his not wanting to leave and Mason takes charge in trying to help with his struggles. Grace, on the other-hand, takes on the task of looking over Jayden, a new girl to the center who will only spend weekdays there. On the weekends, her father is supposed to pick her up. Jayden is classified as a “cutter” and is in need of someone to watch out for her. As both Mason and Grace learn more about Marcus and Jayden, we learn more about Mason and Grace.
After the hours of their volunteer time, it’s revealed that Mason and Grace are a couple and they are living together. We see Grace at a Doctors, as she learns that she is pregnant and she decides to schedule an abortion. For some reason, Grace is tormented by the thought of childbirth and is reluctant to tell Mason why. This reluctant nature of hers sends Mason some odd signals, but they both agree that they need to focus on their work first. Within the center, we see some normal interactions play out and we learn more about what each individual kid went through before getting there. I don’t want to say anymore, except what you will see and hear will change your thinking entirely and will stick with you for a long time to come.
There were two specific scenes in Short Term 12 that had me breaking down in tears at how well they were done. The first, was Marcus asking Mason to help him with a rap. He has Mason set up a beat and proceeds to rap what he had written. After such a simple request, you’d think that Marcus could be rapping about anything. What we hear, however, is his story. The story of how his mother had beaten him as a child and how she left him when he needed her most. It’s a minute and a half of the most haunting and chilling lyrics that you’ll hear all year. The hairs on my body were sticking up as goosebumps traveled all around. It comes at such an unexpected moment and leaves your body paralyzed as you fight back tears.
The second scene is an intimate moment shared by Jayden and Grace. As Grace has tried over and over to get Jayden to open up, she had ultimately gotten nowhere. Until, Jayden asks Grace to listen to a story she had written. The story, is about an Octopus and a Shark who become friends. I wont say anymore about it, because it reveals major plot information, but I will say that it is one of the saddest things that I’ve ever heard. All the emotion that was put into telling it really tore at my heart. It was an unforgettable scene that will have you clenching your fists as you dive further and further into the recesses of Jayden’s mind.
This is not a “happy” film. There are comic moments and moments that will have you beaming, but for the most part, this is a story that deals with some very serious subject matter. The film is Rated R because of that and there is good reason behind that choice. In the film, you’re exposed to a lot of foul language, some uncomfortable imagery and a lot of dark elements. I won’t go too into detail on them, but I think you can decipher that for yourself. With Short Term 12, we get a very real and look at the lives of foster kids. They tell real stories that affect the majority of the 400,000-some kids living in foster care every day. It’s a powerful movie that will make you thankful for what you have, but will also make you wonder what you can do to help.
It’s unfortunate that this film is so small, because I could actually see a film like this winning an Oscar or two. Brie Larson certainly should be nominated for her performance, but most likely won’t be due to the fact that this film isn’t very well-known. Speaking of amazing performances, many of the child actors in this film had never acted before this. In a sense, that adds an almost Documentary feel to parts of the film, because these kids are so convincing. All around, the acting in this film is spectacular. All of these performances help fuel one of the best movies of the year. This is a film that deals with an important issue and it is one that needs to be seen. No matter how far you have to drive, I strongly urge you to seek out a theater to see this! For anyone living in the Seattle are, like me, there are two theaters screening this film!
Short Term 12 Trailer