out of Five
Running time: 96
The insurmountable joy and fear of parenthood and the strife of growing up when all the odds are stacked against you is explored in this sincere and heartening American indie set in short term accommodation for displaced children.
What’s it all about?
Grace and her long-time boyfriend Mason work in a short term accommodation home for displaced kids. When Grace discovers she’s pregnant her inner turmoil and abusive past bubble to the surface and start affecting both her work and personal life.
Destin Creton explores the meaning of family and the desire to do the best for the people you care about in his depiction of life in a home for children with great emphasis on the developing relationships between the adults and the kids entrusted to their care.
The care system suggests an impossible level of detachment from the children, which Grace explains to newcomer Nate on his first day (“You are not their parent, you are not their therapist, you are here to create a safe environment, that’s it.”) and to which he tries his hardest to adhere instead of following his instincts. And of course, these rules aren’t followed by any of the staff, with both Grace and Mason forming strong bonds with many of the kids. Cretton tells a poignant story through these relationships, showing both the positives and negatives of the system.
Brie Larson delivers every ounce of her tormented and incredibly caring character with a rare sensibility and Cretton explores the self-destructive tendencies, the abandonment issues and the ways in which abused children often use creative methods as a healing tool, with just the right amount of sensitivity. He paints happiness as a feeling that comes about through sharing, and in an extremely well judged and powerful moment shows an adult explaining the realities of what happens after you report abuse with a harrowing court room testimony description.
Humour is often used as a coping mechanism and Cretton plays with this from the start as Mason relays a story about an unfortunate incident between himself and a former resident; in fact Cretton uses humour throughout Short Term 12 which makes for uplifting viewing that rings true.
Short Term 12 never speaks down to its audience, offering a witty, tender and sensitive snapshot of life in foster accommodation and the long-term effects of abuse.