Short Term 12 (the Movie)
Acting on a recommendation from my good friend Sam, I Netflixed Short Term 12, a little movie from this past year that was completely overlooked in all the Big-Movie Hoo-Hah that’s surrounded the recent Academy Award nominations (following the Golden Globe awards).
It’s about a short-term residential foster facility that cares for its roster foster kids– not sure if I ever figured out why these kids weren’t with regular foster families. Maybe that was tried and didn’t work out. Anyway, the kids in Short Term 12 are all damaged to some degree, as you’d expect.
The main characters are two counselors, Grace and Mason, who are themselves in a relationship (in fact, Grace is pregnant). Mason is played by John Gallagher, Jr., Grace by Brie Larson, and what a surprise I got when I looked at her Internet Movie Data Base (imdb) page. She is listed as having 10 award nominations and 10 wins — I’ve never seen that before. Every award (and they’re small ones, like Austin Film Critics Award), as befits an actress in small movies) led to her winning that award. Unprecedented.
There’s a telling scene in mid-movie when the kids ask Mason what brought him to the counselor’s job at Short Term 12. He answers, “Growing up, I always knew I wanted to work with underprivileged kids.” There’s a sharp reaction from Keith Stanfield, playing Marcus–he challenges Mason, who apologizes, says he wasn’t thinking about what he was saying. Marcus warns him to be careful about the words he uses; obviously he doesn’t like to be called an “underprivileged kid,” doesn’t like it at all.
There are many small but gripping moments in the movie, some rather large crises with the kids. No happy ending, nor a sad one. And I get it why a movie this small wouldn’t have the necessary “resonance” or largeness of vision to attract Academy Award nominations. But it’s the sort of movie I prefer, mostly.