Grace, played by Brie Larson, is a former troubled youth herself and is at Short Term 12 to help those struggling just as she did. She is stern yet fun and smiles shyly at her coworker Mason, played by John Gallagher Jr from the Newsroom. We quickly learn that they have been in a longterm relationship that presumably started while they were working at the halfway house.
We are quickly introduced to the eclectic, manic, and ultimately sweet group of kids staying at the house. The nature of the kids situation is made apparent to us by Marcus, who is about to turn 18.
Grace explains to new hire Nate, who serves as the eyes and ears of the audience, that at 18 these kids are released to make their way in the world. Through Nate we are introduced to this often insane world. He also shows us our own innocence, there's a very powerful moment in which Nate struggles to clean blood off a wall. Nate is at points the only image which the audience can relate.
We are also introduced to a young girl Jayden, for who Grace has an immediate and recognizable affinity. Jayden lets the group know immediately that she won't be there long. That her father is picking her up soon.
Jayden is the catalyst to this crumbling world of humans helping humans. She is the kid Grace has the most in common with and we quickly realize that this caretaker is anything but ordered. The film picks up speed and the hand held camera shows us just how quickly things are getting out of control.
This could have just been another emotionally derivative indie film about society's handling of marginalized people. Instead it is a very real and authentic look at people who are struggling internally. It's a stand out performance by Brie Larson, who has played excellent small comedic roles in comedies such as 21 Jump Street, The Spectacular Now, and Scott Pilgrim vs the World. It is a powerful performance for someone who is often perceived as light and funny. The screenplay, based on the short film Cretton created, is based on Cretton's real life experiences working in the foster care system. It's a genuine film that leaves the viewer at a loss. The supporting cast is remarkable and they truly elevate Larson as a girl losing her grip. A beautiful film with real human emotions that most of us have never had to feel before.
Short Term 12 is available on Netflix.