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Short Term 12 - Cinemaholic Movie Reviews
one person's obsessive addiction to film
Short Term 12
Directing: A
Acting: A
Writing: A
Cinematography: B+
Editing: A-

Only once in a great while does a movie come along that is this nakedly honest with its emotions. Short Term 12 is like a sucker punch to the gut. It's funny and heartbreaking and awkward and real, all in the right ways.

The title refers to the foster care facility staffed by longtime couple Grace (Brie Larson) and Mason (John Gallagher Jr.). They apparently don't demonstrate their being a couple openly at the facility, but there is never an issue made of that. What's really at issue, while Mason and particularly Grace find skillful ways to connect with these kids, is the need for them to make their own breakthroughs as twenty-something adults. It's a two-way street: the kids also help them, in unexpected ways.

In the wrong hands, this could come across as terribly contrived, or hokey, or overwrought. In the hands of writer-director Destin Cretton, we get none of that. We get to know several of the kids, a rather diverse bunch, and each of them are fully realized. Without exception, young actors portraying them are impressive.

But a new arrival, Jayden (Kaitlyn Dever), triggers something in Grace. We eventually learn that Grace and Mason were themselves foster children, and Grace recognizes specific pain in Jayden that she herself has suffered. It doesn't help that Grace's father is soon to be released from prison. He did terrible things to her.

There are no histrionics here, just a shattering emotional authenticity. There is great sadness, but an equal amount of sweetness. This movie will make you cry, for both reasons.

Grace and Jayden see into each other, while Mason is frustrated by Grace's refusal to let him in. Ultimately, this story is about Grace: she has yet to work though what happened to her when she was the same age as these kids she's looking after. It seems she is potentially a danger to herself in much the same way.

Things get pretty hairy. There's one scene that is so tense that I actually whispered, "Oh god, don't do this to me." And then the tension is diffused in an absolutely perfect way.

This is cinema at its best: an artful reflection of real life, with unpredictable but alternately tragic and delightful results. This is easily one of the best films of the year, a breath of fresh air at the end of the parade of crap that is the typical summer movie. Blockbusters have their audiences, but some people are starved for something as intimate and thoughtful as it is entertaining. Short Term 12 delivers.

Kaitlyn Dever and Brie Larson skirt the edges of emotional breakthrough in SHORT TERM 12.

Overall: A
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