Don’t know if you share this belief “teenager me” had back in my, ahem, teenage days (wasn’t so long ago…. at least I pretend it wasn’t), but it always seemed to me that indie movies were all the same. You have the Elliot Smith tunes, the MPDG, the silence…. so much silence, and scenery to accompany that “deep thinker” silence. And then you had the film end abruptly with a cliffhanger that shouldn’t even be called a cliffhanger cause it doesn’t do anything for the movie; it’s just an excuse to seem sensitive and unique, by taking a page out of the fucking Sopranos and ending in mid-sentence.
Anyways, films like these (The Exploding Girl, Tiny Furniture, Between) give indie movies a rep for trying to be too fucking INDIE. But, thankfully there are a few gems that change that, and though these great indie finds do have their share of indie soundtracks and quiet time, they, however, use it to their advantage. Short Term 12 should be the poster child of great indie films like these.
Starring Brie Larson who you should follow on Twitter; look up to; and pretty much replace your stupid love for chicks like Taylor Swift with an admiration for this great talent who’s probably best known for kissing Joan Hill and “going down on” Dave Franco in 21 Jump Street.
Larson stars as Grace, a supervisor at Short Term 12, a home for “troubled” kids. She runs the place with her live-in boyfriend Mason (John Gallagher, Jr.), who is the sweetest boyfriend character you will ever see. No. Fucking. Joke. You will probably break up with your SO after watching this, wanting to search instead for a Mason-type who will sugar you with understanding and patience…. and then you realize no one is like this in real life. And then you die alone.
Anyways, Mason and Grace run Short Term 12 where they literally have to run sometimes to catch kids running out in panic because of ADHD or low blood sugar. They mentor a bunch of troubled kid types that don’t seem to be there just to fulfill some “type.” Unlike shitty movies like Freedom Writers, these kids’ problems seem pretty genuine because the acting and seriousness of it all is genuine. Grace has to be a tough mama sometime, and this fair but tough demeanor of hers resonates well with the kids, who appreciate and love her back for it. The chemistry isn’t just shared between her and a couple kids; it is shared between everyone.
When a young Avril Lavigne looking girl Jayden is admitted there as a favor to her father, a friend of Grace’s boss, Grace discovers more about her own fears while learning more about Jayden; one of these fears being her fear of being a mother, something that is becoming a reality for her when she finds out she is prego. Jayden at first seems to have a wall and funny comebacks, but the wall starts to crumble down slowly, and is later revealed that Jayden’s real issues might be hitting too close to home.
What makes Short Term 12 so great, is that, again, they do not just focus on one character. You also have Marcus, who is a talented writer and rapper, but is so shaken from the time spent with his addict mom, that he is too scared to leave Short Term 12 and continue on to adulthood now that his 18th birthday is nearing.
And, of course, you have the mentors, like Grace and Mason, who both come from troubled pasts and are each other’s support system. Their relationship is of absolute envy, that is until you realize that they need each other as much as the other because they too are “troubled kids.” The two have apparently been living their whole lives with fists raised, but now that its time to really move on and put those fists down, and raise a child, Grace is having difficulty refraining from her go-to defense mode.
Short Term 12 is the darling of indie movies streaming on Netflix. Having possibly one of the highest ratings on Netflix’s indie category, and a following of rave reviews from critics on all indie movie festival fronts (SXSW loved this movie, and we love them back for loving it), Short Term 12 will leave you absolutely smitten and even a little changed. It will resonate with you, regardless if you had a happy childhood or not, and most importantly it will give you hope that there can actually be a good mentor-troubled kid movies that don’t have to star Hilary Swank.