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Short Term 12: A quiet film with a strong voice

Short Term 12
Directed by Destin Cretton
In cinemas now

One of the films that should get a couple of Oscar nominations this year is Short Term 12. But it won’t. It's too honest and unsentimental in the way that it deals with the issue of teenagers and their isolation. It is a quiet film which with a stong voice.

The film is set largely in a foster care institution for abused, broken and adrift teenagers. The carers who look after them try to work with the kids to give them an understanding of how to relate to each other and the world they have to go out into.

One of the supervisors is Grace, in her 20s and not much older than some of the kids. She is also in a relationship with Mason, one of the other care givers.

Grace and the staff have a fragile and tense relationship with the kids they are trying to help  negotiating the tensions in their work lives as well as their personal lives.

Much of the film centres around Grace's relationship with a new inmate, Jayden, whom she tries to help, discovering that the troubled teen is experiencing the same sort of disturbing childhood that Grace had as a teenager herself.

There are other teenagers in the institution who have to negotiate own personal problems such as Marcus, who is coming up to his 18th birthday and able to leave but ambivalent about his freedom and life in the big world.

The film tells a few simple tales about relationships that are stark reminders of the demands that life places on young people. Their lives are exposed without sensationalism in simply observed encounters. People talking to each other in tense, often monosyllabic conversations that slowly reveal fragments of character and emotion.

At times the film looks and sounds like a documentary and throughout there is a sense that these are true stories being enacted by real people.

Grace, played by Brie Larson, is a brilliant and naturalistic study of a young woman having to confront and work through her own personal issues while trying to help other equally flawed children in her care.

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