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‘Short Term 12’: poignant, best indie of the year

By Ohad Amram Columnist


Taking awards by storm at the 2013 South by Southwest Music and Film Festival, “Short Term 12” is undoubtedly among not only the best indies of the year, but also the best films of 2013 in general. Written and directed by breakthrough filmmaker Daniel Destin Cretton, “Short Term 12” was initially made into a short film, which Cretton had decided to make a feature, and understandably so.

“Short Term 12” revolves around the lives of Grace, played by Brie Larson, and Mason, played by John Gallagher Jr. The two are the primary counselors at a foster home for at-risk teens, and their own unfortunate experiences allow them to sympathize and care for the residents.

The troubled youth that roam the home provide a strong sense of liveliness and compassion for the film. The script that Cretton follows allows for the characters to express their vulnerability in a way that evokes empathy from the audience, yet it’s so subtle that it’s inherently beautiful.

The film also exists on two plot lines. It manages to engage the audience in the dilemmas of the residents, but also the love quarrel that surrounds the film’s two main characters. The two counselors conduct themselves professionally at the workplace. However, at home, they live together and share such an authentic and selfless love. This love enables them to care for the troubled youth with such strong will. These events foreshadow the couple’s own future that is unveiled when Grace realizes she’s pregnant.

“Short Term 12” manages to evoke emotion from its audience in a way that does not seem forced. The heaviness of the subject matter is off-set with small subtle humor. There are plenty of intricate little nods that, when added to the bigger picture, amount to a very tender and loving feature. The film’s poignancy is sure to have audiences enthralled to the point of tears.

The ensemble of “Short Term 12” is terrifically casted. There isn’t a single character that isn’t believable, and not a single line of dialogue that doesn’t hit like a thousand bricks. In other words, every line of dialogue either progresses the plotline or provides a significant bit of information. This is a tremendously powerful film that doesn’t need more than a mere hour and a half to land on its strongest points.

In short, “Short Term 12” is simply one of the best films of 2013. Not only has Cretton proved himself an extremely talented writer and director to watch, but both Larson and Gallagher Jr. have established themselves well as deft actors with long careers ahead of them.

Supporting characters Jayden, played by Katlin Dever, and Marcus, played by Keith Stanfield, in the roles of the foster home residents, are just as masterful. “Short Term 12” is the epitome of triumphant filmmaking.

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