Destin Daniel Cretton’s film 'Short Term 12' is in my Top 5 films of 2013. This candid look at life in a big group foster home for troubled kids is natural, endearing, and brutal all at the same time. I was completely moved and fell in love with each character in its 96 minute run-time, and didn’t want to leave them when the credits started to roll. This film is more of an ensemble drama with Brie Larson and John Gallagher Jr. taking the more meaty roles. This captivating film will pull at the heart strings, but it won't leave you depressed like so many similar films have done before.
Grace (Larson) plays one of several adults who work at a sort of compound for troubled kids – otherwise known as a group home. These kids are supposed to be placed here temporarily, but often get overlooked by the system and end up staying long term. The goal is to get each of them to a good family who loves them. One of the other counselors is Mason (Gallagher), who is an amazing and funny laid back guy and is secretly dating Larson. Mason is the kind of guy you want to be life long friends with.
The counselors are told strictly to create a safe environment and make sure none of the kids are hurting themselves or others. They are not to act as therapists, friends, or doctors. However, we see Grace and her fellow colleagues going above and beyond to make these kids feel genuinely loved, because in fact, they do love each of them. And we see that these kids feel more comfortable with Grace and Mason as they let them in on some of their horrible past that they won’t even tell their real doctors or therapists.
For instance, one of the older children in the home, Marcus (Keith Stanfield), an 18 year old, allows Mason to hear a rap he’s been working on, which details his childhood from his prostitute mother who made him sell drugs and then beat him. Or when newbie Jayden (Kaitlyn Dever) arrives at the home and does not want to be a part of the system, she eventually opens up about her abusive life to Grace in the form of a kid’s story she wrote, that might just be all too familiar for Grace herself, and we being to see that the counselors might have more in common with their kids than meets the eye.
Every scene will leave you breathless with its charm and drama, and will make you want to give each of these characters a long hug. What’s so great is that, this never feels overly done or go into explicit dark territory. The moments feel real and genuine and while you might look at this story on paper and think, “This is gonna be rough”, you’ll come out the other side with a smile on your face and will be glad you took the ride.
Brie Larson deserves an acting award for her role in this film. She is a top notch actor, who I feel can compete with Meryl Streep, Cate Blanchett, and Helen Mirren. Her wit and emotional breakdowns are true-to-life, and even when she might be making a mistake, we still love her. Gallagher Jr. is as always amazing to watch on screen. His comedic timing and ability to deliver a story is impeccable. And Cretton’s direction is beautiful and magical, and shows every little quirk in these characters.
'Short Term 12' comes with a great 1080p HD transfer presented in 1.85:1 aspect ratio. The detail is quite sharp throughout, although the interior shots of the cast inside the group home come across as somber and soft. There aren't a lot of bright primary colors that pop off screen. However, when we are outside during the day time, the blues and greens really shine and look great.
There is a good filmic-like quality to this, but there is no grain to speak of. Closeups reveal pimples and makeup blemishes very nicely here. The skin tones look very natural with the black levels running deep and inky. I believe the director made the film's colors not as bright to coincide with the tone of the movie itself, which works perfectly here. This a great video presentation.
This release comes with a great lossless DTS-HD 5.1 audio mix and for being a dialogue driven film, it sounds robust and full. The dialogue is always crystal clear and easy to understand, even when everybody is talking at once in a few scenes. There are no pops, cracks, or hissing to speak of here. There is some great directionality to this as well.
The ambient noises of the kids in other rooms as well as some of the sound effects sound full coming out of the surrounds. The LFE is well-balanced and the dynamic range is wide. The soundtrack always adds to each scene and never drowns out the dialogue. For this small drama, the audio is excellent.
'Short Term 12' was one of my favorite movies of 2013, and quite possibly of the last ten years. I wanted to spend more time with the characters after it as over. This is an amazing film. The video and audio presentations are both great with some solid extras. This is a refreshing and original movie. One you should see and add to your collection. Highly Recommended.