Short Term 12 is a movie about a group home for troubled teenagers. Albeit fiction, the writer and director worked in a group home for at-risk kids himself and was inspired to share his experiences. The style, music, and writing of the film is masterful, and I’d like to liken it to another great independent film called Like Crazy. Its screenplay compliments its plot and message, which in turn complements its phenomenal effect on the viewer.
What makes Short Term 12 so amazing is its ability at realism. The viewer can’t help but see himself right there in the movie, walking alongside Grace (the supervisor) the entire time. The personalities of every character are genuine and their stories are worldly, not too outlandish, and not all that uncommon. The troubled teenagers and even Grace come from backgrounds of violence and abuse that shake the viewer’s pristine vision of the world.
I personally find the very humanness of the story helpful. What on earth is one to say when a grown man talks about his abusive mother and bursts out crying? How does one look at a man’s eyes and give a few words of comfort, or advice, or disbelief, or whatever seems necessary at that moment with the right emotions transmitted, poise intact, and tensions eased? Or what does one do when a girl spits in one’s face, screams obscenity at the top of her lungs, and throws a tempered fit of garbled emotional discharge? The movie has those wild scenes and the reactions of the various supervisors at the camp, each with their different personalities and backgrounds.
The film ends abruptly but with a deliberate impact on the viewer. One is left not just pitying the lowdown “underprivileged” children of the movie, but actively thinking about the extraordinary passions of the human experience that have to be dealt with every day. Working with people and their emotions seems to be at the heart of this fantastic film, all the while wrapped in the plight of social work and the angst at-risk teenagers.