A real indie gem

 
Melissa York
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FILM
SHORT TERM 12
Cert 15 | Four stars

SHORT Term 12 has already won both the Grand Jury and Audience prize at this year’s South By South West festival: that’s some billing to live up to.

It draws you into the tortured world of a temporary foster home for troubled teens.

The various trials of these heartbreaking youngsters are told through the eyes of Grace (Brie Larson), a young supervisor struggling with some hefty issues.

These come back to haunt her when she’s tasked with looking after intelligent but self-destructive Jayden (Kaitlyn Dever), who has a similar background.

Writer and director Destin Cretton, who used to work in a foster home herself, does a fantastic job balancing the darkness of the subject matter with welcome moments of humour.

A warming turn from The Newsroom’s John Gallagher Jr as Mason, Grace’s saintly co-worker and boyfriend, provides a lot of the laughs. In one scene, Jayden angrily smashes a cupcake into Grace’s face, quietly whispering, “Grace, how’re my cupcakes?”

Larson shines in one of the most nuanced females roles since Jennifer Lawrence’s Tiffany in Silver Linings Playbook. Her performance is withdrawn yet intense and she still manages to paint Grace as a suitable saviour for these abandoned children.

The plot, while predictable, is not meant to be a revelation – it’s meant to be a catharsis (the shaky camera work, though, is superfluous in a world bleeding cruel-world realism).

Sometimes, films are universally loved because people are right.