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'Short Term 12' deserves its accolades

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POSTED: June 6, 2014 4:00 p.m.
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"Short Term 12" delves into the lives of people who run a group home for troubled teens, as well as the teens themselves.

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In 2013, the independent drama “Short Term 12” quickly made the festival rounds and emerged as quite a darling.
The film, directed by Destin Daniel Cretton, won the Grand Jury and Audience awards for Narrative Feature at the South By Southwest festival and claimed three Independent Spirit Award nominations as well. Critics raved; the Los Angeles Times called it “a small wonder,” and Slashfilm called it “magical” and “a shining example of what cinema is all about.”
I was eager to check out this picture for myself, and finally, “Short Term 12” now is available on home video.
The film, whose title refers to a group home for troubled teens, opens on a casual outdoor gathering of a handful of young people welcoming a new employee. The leader of the bunch, a bearded man named Mason (Tony Award winner John Howard Gallagher  Jr.), is in the middle of what seems to be an epic story he is telling the newcomer about the job. Suddenly, a crazed child dashes out from a nearby building, prompting Mason to give chase.
This is how the viewer is introduced to the group home. The kids who live there stay until they are 18 years old and receive regular therapy sessions, both in group and private settings. But they know if they can run fast enough to evade the staff and clear the property line, legally they are free to go and cannot be made to return.
You immediately get the sense that caring for these youngsters is never dull.
Mason’s co-worker and live-in girlfriend, Grace (Brie Larson), is a supervisor who leads the staff under the direction of licensed psychiatrists. She may not have a doctorate, but Grace is the closest to the children, serving as their surrogate mother, disciplinarian and confidant. At first blush, she appears strong and in control, having an amazing rapport with the facility’s fragile, fractured children.
However, when teen girl Jayden (portrayed beautifully by Kaitlyn Dever of “Justified”) arrives, Grace begins spiraling out of control, seeing too much of her younger self in Jayden. What develops is a rocky friendship that just may change both of their lives.
To call the film “magical” is entirely accurate. Drama this realistic and unpolished isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but I quickly fell in love with the real way that the story unfolds and the honest light in which it portrays such a volatile subject. Not everyone gets a shiny, happy childhood, and this picture examines the tough topic, while also giving audiences a happy ending.
I am a fan! If you give a try, make sure to keep some tissues handy.

 

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