Running time: 96 minutes
Starring: Brie Larson, John Gallagher Jr., Kaitlyn Dever, Rami Malek
Who to see it with: Anyone who cares about children
Short Term 12 is one of the best movies to come out this year. It is set in a foster care group home inhabited by a diverse group of kids, each with their own issues. Abandoned by their parents for various reasons, the kids are part of their own family even though none of them really feel like they belong. Watching over these children and young adults is a wonderful group of caretakers who all have different reasons for wanting this intense and rarely rewarding job. The best part of this movie is seeing the variety of personalities in the film interact. They are all drastically different and show their depth and complexity as the film progresses. It's a group that shouldn't work but end up doing so because of the situation they're placed in. Those characters also work because they are brought to life by some spectacular acting. Brie Larson and John Gallagher Jr. stand out as the two main group home staffers. They each bring a different perspective and style to their interactions with the kids and both are effective for different reasons. The children are also amazingly cast and give performances that are convincing and natural--a feat given some of the issues they have to deal with. Finally, their personalities all work because of the genuinely amazing writing that brings their characters to life.
The story's insight into the past and home life of Brie Larson's lead staffer gave her depth beyond that of the typical inspirational adult you see in many stories involving troubled youth. The group home's depiction felt realistic with a mood that shifts between quiet sadness, joy (when the staff manages to coax positive reactions out of the reluctant kids), and dull but pleasant boredom. There are a few moments toward the end when this emotional rollercoaster seems like it's going to fly off its rails, but it manages to remain an honest look at a tough subject without becoming a depressing melodrama.