Short Term 12 has a rigged narrative, but stellar performances and emphatic stories elevate this conveniently polished indie drama.

Grace (Brie Larson), a young supervising staff member of a foster care facility, looks after troubled teens and reckons with her own past alongside her co-worker and longtime boyfriend, Mason (John Gallagher Jr.).

Short Term 12 is a character driven story that takes a look into the lives of neglected youths.

The characters feel human with their own flaws and baggage. Stellar performances from the cast make their story lines affecting. The narrative is told from their perspective, which prevents it from turning into a thinly veiled Oscar bait hero story.

The film provides a realistic look into social work and the aftermath of abuse. There’s little that you can do as a powerless staff even if you have the most insight into situation. Healing isn’t going to be magically solved by a series of therapy.

The naturalistic cinematography helped in creating a recognizable setting, which fortunately in this case wasn’t stylized for that poetic borderline pretentious indie look. The location could have been any facility anywhere in the US.

But while Short Term 12 is a nuanced drama, the coincidences are too convenient. Grace is forced to re-evaluate her life and finally take her own advice after a series of well-timed events. The mosaic plot is obviously polished with an impossibly unnoticed easy respite for Grace (if I had the chance to have a couple of swings at a random car without being noticed I totally would have happily taken it).

Still, Short Term 12 is at times funny and intimate but offers no sugar-coated solution and easy answers. It takes time to heal, to love, and to be whole again.

My Rating: 8/10

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