SHORT TERM 12 (M)
Directed by Destin Cretton
"I take good care of everyone."
That's no idle boast that Grace (Brie Larson) makes. Although barely older than most of her charges at the Short Term 12 foster care facility, she has developed a reputation for being able to calm down, comfort and create a safe environment for the troubled teens who can spend up to three years (while the State decides what to do with them) in a place where the tacos are a known laxative, supersoakers are used as wake-up calls and violence or a crisis is just a loose word or impetuous moment away.
And despite not being a trained therapist or a parent (and one who knows she has to be an asshole before she can be their friend), Grace believes she knows what's best for each individual and is prepared to go the extra mile for them.
But while Grace seems to have everything together (including a solid relationship with fellow counsellor Mason - The Newsroom's John Gallagher Jnr), one case threatens to reveal just why she has so much empathy with those in her care.
Small but beautifully formed, it's easy to see why Short Term 12 has been such a critical and audience darling at US film festivals.
Fleshed out from writer-director Destin Cretton's own 2008 short of the same name, it's the perfect antidote today's special effects-driven Hollywood cinema. A rare Generation Y title that aims to treat its target audience as adults, here is a film that showcases its actors - United States of Tara and 21 Jump Street's Larson is stunning - compels with its naturalistic approach and delivers believable scenarios and dialogue.
However, while Cretton's script attempts to up the accessibility into the story via the arrival of a new member of staff, such a device does mean the story at times feels like its grinding through the indie drama gears, winding up to a signposted crisis and predictable, if still delightful, payoff.