GRACE: He ran away again, and then two days later someone found him dead in the bushes.
GRACE: That is the real ending to the story.
MASON: I don’t like that part.
Short Term 12 is a great movie, and it does not tread lightly whatsoever on the tough topics. The story is from the viewpoint of Grace, who runs the floor at a group home for troubled teenagers. It’s safe to say I was in tears for at least 70% of the movie. I’d heard about it a while back since John Gallagher Jr. is in it and I’ve followed him via theater stuff for a while. I’d more or less forgotten about it, and I don’t even know if it got released in Albany, but then it popped up on Netflix. It was idly sitting there in my queue when I read this piece about Brie Larson and Shailene Woodley. Granted it’s supposed to be a glowing profile, but I definitely came away from it finding them both a tad insufferable. But every comment still reiterated Brie Larson’s solid acting chops, especially in Short Term 12. I really enjoyed her on Community briefly as Abed’s love interest and now I needed to see if she did disappear into her roles like everyone said.
The quote above comes only 10 minutes into the movie, almost as an afterthought. A postscript to Mason’s long, hilarious story of shitting his pants while following a kid outside the home. It’s clear that there’s only so much these leaders can do to protect and watch the kids. I almost don’t even want to write too much about all of the story lines and thoughts and feelings because they’re still ruminating in my head. It makes sense that we learn Mason and Grace were both damaged foster kids – making them probably the best qualified people to handle and reach those kids. I’ve always been drawn to these kinds of movies, I think because growing up I had the kind of angst that connects with those emotions even if I wasn’t coming from the same kind of situation. I did a huge film analysis including the movie Thirteen (and apparently Larson was up for Evan Rachel Wood’s part) and some other teen angst film in high school. Those emotions are so real and facing them is how you grow as a person, which I think I had trouble doing = hence the movie watching as a guide. Maybe I just like dark things.
Marcus’s story might be my favorite because the turns keep coming that you don’t necessarily expect. It sounds trite to say the movie subverts expectations, but they handle the balance of telling this story without making any of the kids seem like cliches. Marcus is angry, he’s hot headed, and he’s about to be forced into the real world now that he’s 18. That scene above (see the full gif moment here) is absolutely heartbreaking. It makes the ending drama and sort of in-story epilogue that much more triumphant. Same with Brie Larson’s Grace… as a viewer you basically earn the discovery of what’s going on with her. It’s not obvious, but as time goes on you realize whatever it is is a big big thing. As with a lot of indie films, I feel like sometimes the dialogue is lacking, but at the same time this does a great job at showing versus telling. When the emotion is so charged it’s almost better. Even in my own life I sometimes feel like I overcompensate by being more verbose than taking in a moment or feeling through an emotion. It’s so easy to deflect. Watching movies like this remind me to do that more. To just lay down on the floor and think. Calm down. Figure shit out. Because like always, it’ll start all over again, and you have to be prepared to tackle what life throws at you.