Director: Destin Daniel Cretton
Writer: Destin Daniel Cretton
I havn’t done a review of an old movie for a bit have I? Might be nice.
Short Term 12 I went in knowing absolutely nothing about and it really worked for me. It’s about a variety of characters working and living in a young person’s care home in America called Short Term 12. As my friend very astutely pointed out, it’s a bit like the American The Story of Tracy Beaker.
Part, I think, of the reason this film worked in the way it did for me is because of how little I knew about the film going in, so I am going to try to keep this as breif and concise and I can.
In a recent Nerdwriter video, the author said, “great movies are the ones that observe people’s lives truthfully”, one of the examples his cites in his video is very fine recent film Arrival, but he could easily have used Short Term 12. It is quite hard to pinpoint where the magic of this film lies, but my feeling is, is that it’s a film that’s willing to get bogged down in the everyday. It’s a film that is concerned with what the careworkers talk about as they make breakfast, and it weaves forshadowing as it does so as an added bonus. It intersplices set ups for later pay offs with characters who you really enjoy spending time around. When a main, linnear plot begins to rear it’s head it almost takes you by suprise, and I’m going to be honest I would happily have spent a whole movie just getting to know these characters. The film is bookended by two stories amongst the workers at the home and they’re entertaining, and poignant, and feel beleivable because John Gallagher Jr, (10 Cloverfield Lane, Hush, The Newsroom), who tells the stories is clearly a great story teller, which is maybe why he’s so great at acting. That’s the kind of stuff I would happily have spent a whole movie watching but the fact is that there has to be a central narrative and the one we got is more than perfectly fine it is, in fact, very, very good. Also, just because there is a central narrative to the story, it doesn’t mean that the film doesn’t take breaks from it to give each character their own set ups and pay offs that work beautifully.
I do have to take a moment to talk about the acting because it is all around superb. John Gallagher Jr has found a line, which he does admitedly occasionally branch out of, in loveable, endearing males. I first came across him in The Newsroom, at which point I already wanted him to marry me, and now watching this I’m like ‘you know what just take me now John’. His character is also suberb, and whilst he doesn’t always suceed he always tries to do the right thing for his girlfriend played by the now Oscar winning Brie Larson, (Room, 21 Jump Street, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World). She is just also, just, wow. I mean if I was to go through all the acting that was superb I’d be listing the whole cast list and really who has time for that.
The film also features some extraordinary story telling. Not least from the score, which, whilst it is a bit handholding in terms of what it wants you to be feeling when, is great. I listened to it outside of the film the other day and I still felt like crying. It also features some of the best filmmaking I’ve seen in an indie film in quite some time. You don’t need to be Nic Winding Refn, (Drive, The Neon Demon) to be stylish y’know. I said in my review of Don’t Breathe, (here), that the cinematography in that film is great beacuse it’s functional and it’s the same here, the cinematography is great because it tells the story really, really, well. Structrally also, it is really watertight.
In the end Short Term 12 functions like a really well seasoned chicken soup. A lot of the time it doesn’t feel like you’re really consuming anything plotwise but there is still a lot of meat there, it is full of character and flavour and texture where you want to find it, and it’s great for a cold, snowy, Friday afternoon when you don’t want to go outside and you could use some emotional sustinance.
I know I said I’d be concise and this has run on 700 words but there is a lot to say and I’ve tried as best I can to stay focussed. Also I know my mum reads my blog, so, Mum, watch this film OK, you’ll really like it. It’s right up your street. I do though feel like I want to see it again before giving it a rating like ‘nearly a masterpiece’ because we watched The Witch afterwards which does have that rating and well I feel like I have to see this film by itself y’know.