This quietly wonderful exercise in glorious empathy more than lives up to the rapturous advance buzz it has been generating – it’s one of the best American dramas in years. The worthy subject matter (foster care and child abuse) should make the film much harder work than it is. But it just breezes along with a ground level matter-of-factness that thankfully never spills over into gritty verité stereotypes. There’s an ‘American’ quality to its social conscience that I cannot recall perceiving in any other recent film.
Much of Short Term 12‘s unexpectedly light tone can be attributed to Brie Larson’s lead performance. The young actress has always made her presence felt playing supporting roles in films like 21 Jump Street and Rampart, and she maintains a grounded charm and poise amongst even the most grimmest of scenes in Short Term 12.
The film starts out concerned primarily with her charges in the titular foster care facility where she works, but as the focus slowly turns to her own demons, Larson bears the weight of some pretty heavy stuff with a quality that deserves Oscar recognition… but probably won’t get it. John Gallagher Jr. (who was great in a small role in Margaret) is much less annoying here than he is as a similar character in Aaron Sorkin’s The Newsroom, and Keith Stanfield (who also starred in the short film this was based on) makes a huge impression as the troubled Marcus.
Don’t let the subject matter put you off – this film is nothing less than utterly inspirational.
‘Short Term 12’ Movie Times