Aug 29

“Short Term 12”: Realistic Portrayal of Facility for Troubled Teens

A new award-winning indie film called Short Term 12 (that expands on writer/director Destin Cretton‘s 2008 short film of the same name) is reaping much critical praise.

Joe Neumaier, New York Daily News, sets it up:

Grace (Brie Larson) is a supervisor at the title facility, handling youngsters whose home lives endanger them or whose suicidal behavior landed them there. Her small staff includes her boyfriend Mason (John Gallagher Jr.), whom she lives with, and shy newcomer Nate (Rami Malek). They’re not social workers or psychologists, but they help the teens work out their emotions..

Early on we learn Grace is pregnant, but she hasn’t told Mason yet. The knowledge of that, and the question of how to handle it, echoes through Grace’s experiences with Jayden (Kaitlyn Dever), a recent arrival at the group home. Among the other kids is the troubled Marcus (Keith Stanfield), who frets about his approaching 18th birthday because it means he’ll soon be on his own after three years at Short Term 12. There’s also the younger prankster Luis (Kevin Hernandez) and bipolar Sammy (Alex Calloway).

…Cretton treats all of them with respect, and we slowly see why the counselors choose to be there.

Below see the trailer:

THE REALISM

Notably, Cretton bases this movie on his own employment experience in a similar facility.

GRACE AND MASON

Their adolescent charges don’t know that Grace and Mason are romantically involved.

Kenneth TuranLos Angeles Times: “Given equal weight with what happens between the staff and these kids is what happens between Grace and Mason, a nuanced relationship that gets increasingly complex as different, unexpected aspects of their backgrounds get revealed.”

THE ROLE OF THERAPY/THERAPISTS

Peter DebrugeVariety: “Although the facility’s care involves dedicated sessions with trained therapists (left almost entirely offscreen), the doctors don’t spend nearly as much time with the kids as the other staffers do, and tensions frequently arise when suggested treatments don’t align with what the on-the-ground counselors observe on a daily basis.”

THE SETTING

Joe Morgenstern, Wall Street Journal:

The setting of ‘Short Term 12,’ a vividly intimate film by Destin Daniel Cretton, might better be called ‘Indeterminate Term 12.’ It’s a foster-care facility where troubled teens are kept in a safe environment until the county figures out what to do with them—a process that can take weeks, months or as much as a year. They get sporadic psychotherapy, the quality of which is undetermined; we’re never privy to any sessions. What we do see is a 20-something supervisor, Grace, trying to help her volatile kids as best she can, even though she isn’t a trained therapist, isn’t much older than some of her charges and is far from untroubled in her own life.

R. Kurt OsenlundSlant:

Short Term 12’s greatest virtue is its intimate understanding of the sort of people who often work in rehab centers and halfway houses, or, in this case, a foster-care facility for at-risk youth. As the film boldly underlines, office-dwelling supervisors like Jack (Frantz Turner) may be bureaucratic and out of touch, but those in the proverbial trenches…know precisely where the kids in their care are coming from, specifically because they both have similar roots and (sometimes literally) similar scars.

JAYDEN AND GRACE

Kenneth Turan,  Los Angeles Times: “Smart, bored, entitled though she is, Jayden touches something in Grace. Though no one knows better than Grace the support staff mantra that ‘you’re not their family, you’re not their therapist, you’re there to create a safe environment,’ she cannot help but want to get involved.”

A CONCLUDING REVIEW 

Andrew O’Hehir, Salon:

It’s both a compelling group melodrama built around an appealing young cast and an immersive introduction into a social reality many of us haven’t thought about, that being the question of what happens to young people who have been abandoned, abused or damaged to such a degree that they no longer have anything close to a stable family or home life.