Welcome to 'Short Term 12' (2013)/Written & Directed by Destin Daniel Cretton/Grade: A+
Brie Larson shines in this 2013 romantic drama that has had an unimaginably positive impact on my life.
Now this one... oh, boy. I can't begin to describe how much this film has helped me over the years. After discovering that Room (2015) director Lenny Abrahamson had decided to audition and cast Brie Larson because of her performance in this movie, I knew I to check it out on Netflix ASAP. Little did I know how sizable an impact it would end up having on me.
The story followed Grace (Larson), a supervising staff member at a residential treatment facility for at-risk kids. When a new girl named Jayden (Kaitlyn Dever) arrived at Short Term 12, her reasons for being there stir up long-buried traumatic memories within Grace, which led to friction with her boyfriend Mason (an outstanding John Gallagher Jr.).
At the time when I first saw this at age sixteen, I was at my lowest point mental-health wise. Day in and day out, my depression made it feel just that much harder to keep on going, and I had yet to talk to anyone about what was going on with me. Seeing this reflected in the characters of Grace, Jayden, as well another supporting character named Marcus (Lakeith Stanfield, stunning in his first-ever role) felt so emotionally relatable that it was almost unbearable. Even though I couldn't relate to the specific experiences they'd gone through, the resulting mental/emotional anguish rang completely true. At a point- I don't remember when- I had been holding my tears in for seemingly an eternity, and finally let it all out. After that viewing, I resolved to open up about what I was experiencing, and I couldn't be happier I made that choice. If it wasn't for this film, this script, this ensemble of performances (especially from Brie Larson), I don't know where I'd be today.
But even with that aside, the movie worked sensationally as a romantic drama. Not one line felt like a real person wouldn't say it, not one character beat felt phony or disingenuous. It felt like I was simply watching real people try their best to navigate rough waters in their lives, a testament to the direction and writing of Destin Daniel Cretton. On top of that, Brett Pawlak's cinematography had a simultaneously fly-on-the-wall, yet intimately up-close-and-personal, language to it that made it that much easier for me to gravitate towards and relate to these people.
I'll also give credit to the score by Joel P. West, which was beautiful because it supported the action without instructing me how to feel. More specifically, it carried me along from one story beat to the next, but whenever there was a one-on-one dialogue scene, editor Nat Sanders kept it out of the equation, allowing for a completely organic emotional response on my part.
Short Term 12 is a rare case where I can't fully encapsulate how much it means to me and my life in a simple blog post or review. I will say that I once direct-messaged my thanks for this film to Destin Daniel Cretton via Instagram, to which he responded with much warmth and appreciation. That couldn't have been a more perfect payoff to this 'arc', if you will, in my life.