Rated: R for language and brief sexuality. Reviewed by: Jim Release date: September 13, 2013 Released by: Cinedigm
A foster care facility for at-risk teens (GoldDerby) is the primary setting for a picture that could be construed for one of those maudlin, uneven After-school Specials.
It doesn't take too long to know Short Term 12 starring Brie Larson and John Gallagher, Jr., finely modulated with gritty authenticity by helmer Destin Daniel Cretton so as hardly to skim the surface and cover over the problems surrounding relationships and rehabilitation.
Cretton has a professional background in these kind of places with young (perhaps not so) adult staffers assists doctors/therapists for disparate charges like edgy Marcus (Keith Stanfield) and Goth-like Jayden (Kaitlyn Dever) that expose intimacy to rough revelations amidst personal trauma. The director's adept handling of story and character comes through the tensions that Grace (a surprisingly good Larson of 21 Jump Street and, of late, The Spectacular Now) is going through.
Grace is one of the staffers along with coworker and longtime boyfriend (whom she's secretly pregnant with) Mason, filled with humor and conflict by Gallagher, Jr (known for his stage and small-screen Cable work) who are supposed to befriend (read: provide stability for) those who'll be treated to hopefully break out of their self-destructive patterns. Larson has a connection to the aforementioned distaff newcomer from her own unstable past that allows for raw, unsentimental treatment that gives Grace the kind of depths that she plumbs so truthfully. It's hard not to empathize with her attitude as she tries to maintain leverage in her own precarious milieu. Opposite the endearing charm of Gallagher, Jr. Larson exhibits the kind of quiet strength yielding Short Term 12 a wrenching poignant affair, vivid and revelatory through its ebb and flow.
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