For Reel

Short Term 12 (2013)
January 18, 2014, 9:34 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Destin Daniel Cretton
4.5 Stars
Short Term 12In the first sequence of Short Term 12, a group of twenty-something social workers are sharing stories about their foster-care facility when they are interrupted by a runaway. Nate (Rami Malek), the newcomer, initially treats the situation with shock and panic, while veteran employees Grace (Brie Larson) and her boyfriend Mason (John Gallagher, Jr.) hardly flinch as they engage in what is a routine pursuit. It is through this kind of attention to detail that the film feels like a convincing slice-of-life. Malek, with a wide-eyed, baffled innocence, seems well-meaning but ill-fit for the job at first, but as the film progresses his developing affection for the kids is met by the viewer’s. In a star-making turn, Larson is a confident, natural presence–like Greta Gerwig, she makes her craft invisible. Her most impressive accomplishment is in striking the right balance between being both convincingly authoritative (she becomes nearly-menacing when she raises her voice at a misbehaving adolescent) and just as vulnerable as those she is working to save. Her character takes a turn late in the film that feels unconvincing–this is one of those films that floats along perfectly until the contrived mechanics of an all-too familiar plot take hold–but Larson has a couple of knockout scenes with Gallagher, Jr. and a troubled new arrival, Jayden (Kaitlyn Dever), in the third act.

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