Short Term 12 is your classic small indie film, relying almost exclusively on character, acting and screenplay because that’s all they had the budget for. Brie Larson had a breakout performance in this film as the manager of a short-term care facility for foster kids. Naturally, her character brings some baggage in the form of past sexual abuse at the hands of her father. The film opens pretty strongly, if you’re into this type of filmmaking, by unfolding naturally to give a very textured, believable and intimate portrait of what life is like in a home full of vulnerable kids with tough lives.
It features some very fine, subtle acting, a believable dynamic between the characters, and the kind of low-key talkie casual vibe that is characteristic of any indie worth its festival cred. Larson in particular has been singled out for a fine performance; she manages to walk the line between vulnerable and authoritative, and she has that movie star magnetism. One kind of wishes the movie would have just hung out in the home, developing the tone that it struck from the get-go; but, there is some daring-do plot injected into the final third of the film concerning Larson’s quest to save a sexually abused little girl, which the film doesn't really need. 90 minutes of exploring the textured, well-acted and vulnerable world of a foster care home would probably have been sufficient.
It’s a fine little movie, but some of the accolades it has received strike me as a bit over the top. Empire referred to it as a "miracle of a movie." Don't get me wrong, it's a good film - but it's no Third Man.