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Short Term 12

Posted by martinteller on August 20, 2014

There’s a lot of good stuff about this movie.  You have fantastic performances by Brie Larson (Grace), Kaitlyn Dever (Jayden) and Keith Stanfield (Marcus).  In some ways these are difficult roles that could all easily dip into cliché or movie-of-the-week mawkishness.  These three young actors (and most of the supporting cast as well) pull it off gracefully… no pun intended.  In my review of I Wish yesterday, I mentioned that children in movies often come off as too grown-up.  In this case, these kids have good reason to have grown up quickly.

And there are some incredibly moving scenes.  The story about the octopus is something that shouldn’t work.  It’s such a Blatant Metaphor.  But my lord, it works beautifully… my lady and I were both wiping away tears (and really, the whole point of the scene is that it’s supposed to be a Blatant Metaphor).  The film works wonders when it deals in these small, private, revealing moments.  There is a touching sense of empathy, and a value placed on trust and communication.  There are scenes that are simply divine in their authenticity and humanity.

Unfortunately, the third act of the film piles on drama with a one-two-three punch.  It starts to feel contrived and overreaching.  It’s far less effective than when the story is operating on a smaller scale, taking one thing at a time, letting us sit with a moment.  A scene that’s supposed to be cathartic isn’t… instead it just yells “catharsis!!” at us.  Other negatives include a score that’s sometimes a bit too prodding in a tinkly way, and a mediocre performance by John Gallagher, Jr. (Mason).

However, the first hour is absolutely wonderful, and the last half hour is good enough, despite some flaws.  Some very moving and powerful stuff.  It shows great promise for writer/director Destin Cretton.  Rating: Very Good (80)


8 Responses to “Short Term 12”

  1. Great review Martin. I have this one lined up in the Netflix queue so looking forward to seeing it soon.

  2. friendo55 said

    I absolutely love this movie and while I agree with you on the piled-on drama towards the end, there’s so much before & after that I can pretty much forgive it entirely.
    I’ve recommended it to friends and family and everyone has loved it.

  3. Dan Heaton said

    I feel like the third act neared the line of falling apart, but then it pulled back at the last moment. I really liked this movie, especially the performances from Larson and Stanfield. A lot of these actors can sell material that might feel less original in others’ hands.

  4. Wendell said

    Very good review. That third act didn’t sit particularly well with me, either. But I loved it up to that point.

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