A film that not many have heard of or seen, but it’s incredible emotional weight and power makes it a must see.
Created on a small budget of under a million dollars the film follows the life of Grace (Brie Larson) a young staff member of a residential treatment facility for young, underprivileged or abused youths. Exploring themes of depression, loneliness, abandonment, abuse and much more in both it’s short run time (96 minutes) and it’s small scale in terms of location makes the film feel much more intimate and personal.
The cast are spectacular, Brie Larson puts in a fantastic performance and it’s a real shame she wasn’t nominated for an Oscar in 2014 (but somehow Sandra Bullock in Gravity was? I’ll never understand the Academy..) because it would have been fully deserved. She brings alive the maternal role she brings to the youths’ lives, as a teacher, carer and friend as well as struggling with her own dark past and obstacles in her personal life.
Another highlight is Lakeith Stanfield’s performance as Marcus, portraying a troubled young man with a distinct lack of support and direction effectively and emotionally. It’s easy to see how this film spring-boarded his career to go on to appear in Selma, Straight Outta Compton and Atlanta.
However it’s not only these two that give great performances, the entire cast add to the emotion of the story of these young people growing up in such difficult circumstances and environments, as well as the struggles the staff go through themselves. John Gallagher Jr. as Mason provides a brilliant father-type figure, adding some needed comic relief to a heavy film and providing excellent chemistry with Brie, adding weight to their relationship. Rami Malek’s Nate is the new staff member who struggles to adapt and is quite resistant to do/go through what is required for the job, which a lot of people would be, however his turn around certainly uplifts the roller-coaster of emotions the film provides, a touching moment when he connects with a struggling youth.
Destin Cretton has done an excellent job of treading the fine line of portraying emotional reality without over-dramatising, which is so easily and often done. It’s a credit to the writer and director’s work, as well as the cast members. The relationships between the characters, the limited budget and locations etc. all make the film genuinely feel real. At times I felt I were watching a documentary, which is a true compliment to the craft of the film.
Short Term 12 asks, can one person really make a difference? And answers with a stern yes, yes they can. Maybe not necessarily to the masses, or the world, but even if only to touch a few lives, to change, to aid a few struggling people, then it’s worth it.