I’m going to start this review off by saying that I am truly disappointed in myself. Short Term 12 was released nearly two years ago, and it has taken me until June of 2015 to finally getting around to watching it. Naturally I had heard of it, but looking at the trailer I didn’t think it would be something that was for me; I could always think of a different movie that I wanted to watch more than it on any given day. Well they always say you learn something new every day, and today I learned that I am a massive idiot for not watching this movie sooner. My praises for this film could go on forever, but I’ll try to confine it to a few hundred words just for sanity’s sake.
Welcome to Short Term 12, where there’s happiness, sadness, and a curveball around every corner. Short term 12 is the story of Grace and Mason, a couple who are dating and both work together at a short term home establishment for under-privileged children who either have no parents, or whose parents are currently involved in extraordinary circumstances. From the get go, with the story that Mason tells about how he pooped his pants on the first day to watching a scrawny ginger child trying to escape the facility, I could tell I was in for an interesting ride filled with unique characters. The children and workers at Short Term 12 are some of the most original I’ve seen in a while and they nail every character’s personality to a T, each one having the ability to make you smile or make you cry at any given moment. The emotions in this film, however, are what truly make it a stand out experience from the rest. This is a movie that has the most realistic depiction of the complexities of human emotion, especially from a youth standpoint, that I have seen in the longest time (not counting Boyhood, obviously). It is so calm and relaxed in terms of it’s atmosphere for so much of the movie that you are very unprepared for the harsh moments of sadness that seem to come out of nowhere. One of the most powerful parts of the film emotionally, is when one of the male workers, Mason, is sitting with Marcus, a 17 year old African American youth, while Marcus raps to him some of the lyrics he has written that help him overcome his daily struggles and express his emotions. Half of the mainstream rappers in today’s music industry should take note of this lyrics because they’re better than any lyrics most of the professional artists have produced.
This movie is so raw in scope and emotion that it manages to uplift you one minute and break your heart the very next scene. It can drop one liners that will bring a smile to your face right before revealing a side comment that brings you back down to this harsh reality that most of the kids have to deal with each and every day. This movie not only stands as a testament to the struggles of the underprivileged youth in today’s American society, but also serves as the personification of a very real truth in the world: the truth that everyone has their own issues and struggles no matter how they display themselves on the outside. Life is never easy for anyone and the struggles of sharing inner turmoil is one of the most daunting obstacles facing young teens of today. It tackles the subject without being preachy in any way, but rather uses the camera to serve as a medium displaying the various roadblocks and triumphs of each of the movie’s main characters. It also reminds of us another truth: that grow up, no matter what your background, is always hard. I remember going through issues in high school where one day you’re on top of the world and the next day you feel like life can’t get any worse. This movie personifies that feeling in a way that feels so natural it just has to be real life. I watch this movie and think there’s no way what I’m seeing before my eyes isn’t real.
This movie is by no means an easy film to watch; it is tough viewing for probably ¾ of it’s run time. Thankfully though, the best thing about it is that it doesn’t quite rise to the level of “Blue Valentine” or “Black Swan” in levels of how difficult it is to watch, which means it can be viewed over and over again for years to come. And you can damn well bet that’s what I’ll be doing. This movie is one that I will be watching for years, even decades, to come.
Short Term 12 (2013): 4/4 stars