Short Term 12, dir/wr. Destin Daniel Cretton, st. Brie Larson, John Gallagher, Jr., Kaitlyn Dever, Rami Malek, Keith Stanfield
The delicate renovation and sustainability of trust is what lies at the heart of director Cretton's semi-autobiographical drama about the supervisors of Short Term 12, a way station for troubled teenagers. The film follows Grace (Larson) and her small team of staff that provide the young residents of Short Term 12 with routine, stability, and the foundation for rebooted respect - for others as well as themselves. Grace is also in a long-term relationship with co-worker Mason (The Newsroom's Gallagher Jr.) but has difficulty opening up to him emotionally. When Grace discovers she is pregnant, her anxieties flourish. She can't imagine bringing a life into the world, especially one that produces the shattered lives of those it's her job to curate. Destin's film is a wonder, an economic chamber-piece of resonance and warmth. Larson and the predominantly young cast dextrously explore the fragile bond that exists between guardian and ward, and Destin gently provokes the relief at seeing such selfless nurturing of the needful young by those whom we forget may be in great pain themselves. The unfolding narrative from the director's own hand is allowed the space and time to develop, and it's surprisingly funny too, given the weight of the subject matter. Brett Pawlak's near-sepia cinematography lends the movie an alluring timelessness, and his shots are measured and beautifully composed, as is the restrained score from Joel P West. But this is undeniably Larson's film, who imbues the movie with an honesty and compassion that oxygenates a potentially claustrophobic and restrictive storyline.