Released five years ago today, Short Term 12 was met with widespread praise from critics and audiences alike. It features Brie Larson in her breakout role, and follows her character, Grace, as she navigates her personal life and her job as a supervisor at a short term foster-care facility. Five years later, does the film hold up as one of the best of 2013?
Short Term 12 was released August 23rd, 2013. It was a relatively small film, with barely any buzz surrounding it, other than what it gained from SXSW. At the time, Brie Larson wasn’t a huge name yet; she had played minor characters in some films (Greenberg, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World), but it wasn’t until Short Term 12 that the world started to notice her. Her role as Grace, a supervisor at a foster-care facility, gave her career the push it needed. The supporting cast, which includes Rami Malek, Stephanie Beatriz and John Gallagher Jr., is amazing as well.
On one hand, it’s terrible that not enough people have seen Short Term 12. It made a mere $1,013,100 at the box office, and had a budget under $1,000,000. The film tells the story of the employees, as well as the kids admitted to a foster-care facility for at-risk teenagers. This wasn’t a story that major studios were ready to tell, despite how incredibly important it is to look into the lives of individuals, especially children, who go through these experiences. It’s just not one that would generate a lot of revenue, which is the main concern for a business. Telling stories about marginalized populations, especially ones about such a specific group of people, can be hard to market.
On the other hand, it’s a great thing that this wasn’t told by a major studio. What comes through in Short Term 12, that hasn’t necessarily been present in director Destin Daniel Cretton’s recent work (The Glass Castle) is authenticity. Authenticity was the key to making Short Term 12 the best film of 2013, and also one of the best films of the 2010’s. With a big budget, there often has to be sacrifices made, such as creative freedom. It’s obvious that Short Term 12 is, very much, Cretton’s passion project. With his limited budget, he wasn’t able to cast actors that were really well known, which was a blessing in disguise.
Oftentimes, when audiences are presented with a familiar face on the screen, such as Leonardo DiCaprio or Brad Pitt, it can be distracting, especially when the story being told is one that is driven by authenticity. Working under the monetary constraints placed on him, Cretton was forced to find actors who had the potential to shine, but hadn’t been discovered yet. Brie Larson, who at the time was relatively unknown, proved to be the perfect fit to play the lead. The genius behind this casting decision is that the audience was able to implant themselves into Grace’s position, because her character wasn’t played by a well known actress.
The reason Short Term 12 feels so personal to every single person that watches it is because it tells the story of the human experience. Everyone goes through low points in their lives. In the film, Grace and Jayden are very much going through the toughest points in their lives. Yet together, they’re able to lift each other up. Society chooses to neglect marginalized populations, and those in need the most. Short Term 12 is Cretton’s effort at bringing some of those issues to the surface. It’s a story detailing experiences most people hopefully never have to go through, but can absolutely relate to.
Some films expect the audience’s empathy, Short Term 12 earns it.
Five years after its initial release, the film still feels painfully relevant. It’s a film, like many other classics that came before it, that never grows old. It will feel relevant from generation to generation, merely because it details the cycles of life that every human goes through. It’s an incredibly important film, and one told in such an engaging manner that you can re-watch it over and over. Short Term 12 is still being lauded by those who have seen it as one of the best films of the 2010’s. It definitely deserves all the praise it receives.