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Laramie Movie Scope:
Short Term 12

Troubled young adults care for troubled teens

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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November 1, 2013 -- A talent-laden cast and a powerful script overcome the budget limitations of this indie film set in a foster care center for teens. This is an extended remake of a 2008 short film of the same name by the same director (Destin Cretton) with some of the same cast. It is also one of the best films of the year.

The film centers around two young staffers at a foster care center, Grace and Mason (played by Brie Larson “Don Jon” and John Gallagher Jr. of “Jonah Hex”) and a troubled young girl who comes to stay at the center, Jayden (Kaitlyn Dever of “Bad Teacher”). There is a very strong dramatic dynamic between these three people.

At home, away from the foster care center, Grace and Mason live together in a stable relationship, but Mason is troubled by Grace and her secretive nature. Something is bothering her. Actually, a lot of things are bothering her, but she won't talk about these things.

Grace is drawn to the troubled teen, Jayden, who reminds her a lot of herself. Jayden is a cutter, prone to hurt herself because of her emotional problems. One day, Grace shows Jayden her scars. Grace was a cutter, too. Grace sees a lot of similarities between Jayden and the problems Grace had growing up. She comes to understand her own emotional problems and Jayden's have similar sources. This realization, and other events, bring Grace's old problems flooding back to the surface.

Grace's inability to share her feelings with Mason causes a split between the two. Her anger at her father and Jayden's father push her to extreme measures. She is starting to spin out of control into self-destructive behaviors.

The other teens at the foster care center also interact with Jayden, including a sullen, angry boy named Marcus, who reveals a tender creative side when he tries to help Jayden feel better by organizing a birthday party for her. A new staff member, Nate (Rami Malek of “The Master”) seems out of his element in the sometimes chaotic conditions in the care center.

The acting is very good in this film and the screenplay is powerful. It is evident this is a low budget movie, but it works very well despite its production limitations. This is one of the best films I've seen this year. I hope to be seeing more of these actors and this director (Destin Cretton, who also wrote the screenplay). This film rates an A.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in digital formats, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2013 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)