Director: Destin Daniel Crettin
Staring: Brie Larson, John Gallagher Jr, Keith Stanfield, Kaitlyn Dever
Running Time: 1 hour 37 mins
Release Date: August 23rd 2013
When a film’s narrative is so wonderfully deep, it takes a soft touch to weave a visual display of human emotion that’s suitable for an eager audience to engage with and Destin Daniel Crettin‘s 2013 independent flick Short Term 12 is a near flawless example of such cinematic excellence. Both written and directed by Crettin, Short Term 12 tells the story of Grace, a twenty-something supervisor, working in a residential home for troubled youngsters. The superb Brie Larson plays Grace, as she attempts to navigate her way through her own darkened past, comes to terms with the current state of her relationship and continues to ensure a safe and secure environment for the kids in her care.
From the very beginning of Short Term 12, the level of acting talent is truly outstanding. Crettin has enlisted performers that not only gel into a sublime ensemble cast but also prove to be standout talents individually. Brie Larson is a genuine beacon of talent. Her screen presence is one of a subtle nature, yet she stands out like fire. Proving herself to be a fine comedic actress in the likes of 21 JUMP STREET, it was wholly refreshing to find her playing a character with such depth and emotional vulnerability.
As audiences learn more about Grace and her own world, they find themselves falling deeper into her psychosis and learn to interpret her subtly self-destructive behaviour. As the drama creeps in, there is no overtly dramatic reveal of Grace’s secret, her past is a part of her and so it becomes a part of those watching; something that stays with you long after the film ends. The entire theme of subtle drama from Crettin is so skilfully used that it makes the few crushingly dramatic outburst so emotional effecting for the viewer; that it can be hugely difficult to watch but so magnificently done.
Along side Larson, John Gallagher Jr. plays Grace’s boyfriend and adds a much needed comedic aspect to this beautifully serious film. With the help of Crettin’s smart and quick script, Gallagher delivers brilliant dialogue with ease and bite. It’s snappy and electric, helping not only to ease it’s audience into the story at hand but also build up a clever and telling backstory to these new, wonderful characters. Together, Larson and Gallagher make sweet and natural duo.
Young talent reaches new heights however, with the raw and shockingly open performances from Keith Stanfield and Kaitlyn Dever. Both prove to be utterly enigmatic and take on these troubled characters with real bravery and commitment. Stanfield in particular takes on the supporting role of formerly abused Marcus and closely becomes an overshadowing presence on screen. One scene in particular is positively goose-bump inducing; as audiences get a horrifying glimpse into Marcus’ home life when he showcases his talent as a young lyricist.
Visually, Crettin plays the game exceptionally smart. With the slight saturation of natural light, Shot Term 12 immediately has that familiar feel of a great independent realist film; something that doesn’t disappoint as the narrative grows. The cinematography favours neat, tight close-ups of the everyday; something that not only engulfs the audience in the facilities surroundings and the simplicity of human nature but connotes the claustrophobic minds and lives of it’s inhabitants.
The brilliance in the under-dramatic is profound and touching, mimicking reality with ease and beauty; leading to optimum emotional effect. Crettin has created a rare gem in cinema that not only taps into the deepest and darkest social horrors but also comes off as gloriously heart-warming and crushingly beautiful.