Thursday, April 24, 2014

Ebert Thoughts ‘14—Short Term 12 (2013) ****

R, 96 min.
Director/Writer: Destin Daniel Cretton
Starring: Brie Larson, John Gallagher Jr., Kaitlyn Dever, Keith Stanfield, Stephanie Beatriz, Rami Malek, Alex Calloway, Kevin Hernandez, Lydia Du Veaux, Frantz Turner, Diana Maria Riva

At every Ebertfest there is one film that I walk away from the festival saying what a treasure it was to have been introduced to. All the films at Ebertfest are treasures. Some I’ve already encountered. Some are more difficult. But, there’s always that one that just strikes some deep core chord of my heart and my artistic brain. “Short Term 12” strikes this year’s power chord.

I’d heard a little about “Short Term 12” as it was making the critical rounds last year. It seemed quite universally praised. I would’ve watched it even were it not one of the Ebertfest entries this year. But, I suppose it was destined to be my favorite of the bunch from this year’s crop.

It’s a small budget indie picture with such a big heart. It takes place almost entirely in one of those youth homes for troubled kids. It doesn’t center of the kids so much as it does on the employees, although a couple of the wards do get some dramatic attention. The counselors and administration staff are barely seen at all. Our main characters are merely the one who keep everything in line, make sure the kids stay as happy as is possible, don’t hurt each other or themselves and don’t run away.

One is a woman with her own baggage worth of trouble. She’s seeing one of her co-workers, who is a nice guy and seems genuinely in love with her. She discovers she’s become pregnant at about the same time that the facility gains a client she believes is being sexually abused by her father. Remember, it’s isn’t her job to assess the clients. To top things off, she’s called by the state to be alerted that her father is about to be released on parole. All this dregs up some of her darker feelings. She’s great at her job, but not so god at applying her work logic to her life. Will she grow and get past the demons she seems to surround herself with even as she buries them?

I find myself describing the film, but not conveying what makes it so good. When it was over, I couldn’t stop myself from saying out loud, “Wow. That was such a good movie.” It just gives you this feeling of elation. It isn’t a downer, although its description might make you think otherwise. It’s cathartic. That’s not just a description. That’s what it does for its audience as well as its characters. This is one of those movies you wait for as a cineaste. It makes even those Transformers movies worth it. This is a wonderful movie.

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