CAPSULE: This film covers familiar territory but still manages to secure an emotional hold on the viewer. At a foster care facility Grace, the staff supervisor, is emotionally involved with the lives of the at-risk teens under her care. Destin Daniel Cretton writes and directs with a message that with enough effort and patience, psychologically scarred people can get together and help each other. Rating: +2 (-4 to +4) or 7/10
A foster care facility is generally a place to keep troubled teens until society sends them out on their own. But implicitly the situation calls on the better staff members to become some combination of friend and parent to teens, some of whom are coming from intolerable situations at home. And because the term of their involvement is usually short the staff members frequently do not have the time to earn trust the way a real parent would. When the foster teens are approaching the end of their youth, their hormones and their peers make them particularly rebellious and difficult to deal with. One caregiver who really wants to help is the aptly-named Grace (played by Brie Larson of "21 Jump Street"). With only five or six years of age and experience between her and the adolescents she dealing with she tries to fix what she can of their broken lives. Grace is the staff leader of the titled facility, and while she doubts herself every step of the way she seems to have a natural talent for handling her charges.
Grace's escape from the pressures and worries of work is her private relationship with Mason (John Gallagher, Jr.) a fellow staff member. But this is not that much of an escape. As she approaches her mid-twenties she has to decide if she is going to commit to this relationship or not. This is weighing on her when she gets a new troubled and, of course, uncooperative teen Jayden (Kaitlyn Dever) to care for at the facility. Helping Jayden Grace gets some mastery of the demons in her own background, a background slowly revealed to the viewer.
The relationships and situations we see in this film are familiar and the plot covers well-trodden ground. However, frequently facilities like this one are not so positively portrayed. Grace has roughly the same job and responsibilities that Nurse Ratched had in ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEXT, but Grace doubts herself even as she sincerely tries to help the people under her care. That makes her the antithesis of Nurse Ratched. Writer/director Destin Daniel Cretton is very careful to color each interaction with assurances that doubts her own power and where she can she will manipulate patients for their own good, helping them to help themselves.
The story was inspired by Cretton's own experience in a foster care facility. Some of the incidents seem more idealized than authentic, but there will be viewers who will be deeply touched by the accounts and by Grace's sincerity. I rate SHORT TERM 12 a +2 on the -4 to +4 scale or 7/10.
Film Credits: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2370248/combined
What others are saying: http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/short_term_12_2013/
Mark R. Leeper Copyright 2013 Mark R. Leeper