Friday, October 4, 2013

Milwaukee Film Festival 2013: Short Term 12

Every year during the Milwaukee Film Festival they have one screening that is just for members and they don't tell you what it is until right before the movie starts.   This super secret screening is usually one of the best movie of the festival.  This year they amazed us with the great film Short Term 12.

Short Term 12 refers to a group home for troubled teenagers.  The daily activities are overseen by Grace (Brie Larson) and her boyfriend Mason (John Gallagher Jr.).  Every day is an adventure for them as they never know what to expect.  But when a new girl Jayden (Kaitlyn Dever) joins the home it stirs up emotions from Grace's past.   To make  things more complicated Grace is pregnant and other ghosts from her past are coming back to haunt her.

The movie manages to balance all the drama with comedy.  It is heartbreaking at times but lighthearted at other times.  The main focus is on Grace and her struggles but everyone in the movie has a complicated back story. We learn about some of the kids and their stories all feel real and never slow the movie down.  As Grace heads to her breaking point we wonder what she will do but as dark as the movie gets it never gets too dark.  And that is all thanks writer and director Destin Cretton.  In  his second feature film he has proven he is a force in the future of film.

The other credit for how good this movie is goes to the incredible cast. Brie Larson does such an amazing job of keeping the character grounded. While we don't know her history at first we understand that there is something going on in her head. As we learn more we begin to empathize with her.  Look for her to get an Oscar nomination come award season. She is surrounded by a great supporting cast. John Gallagher Jr. Plays her loving goofball boyfriend to perfection and Rami Malek has some of the funniest scenes as newcomer Nate who is way over his head. Of course the movie wouldn't be what it is without the talented child cast lead by Kaitlyn Deever as the troubled Jayden and Keith Stanfield as Marcus who is about to turn 18 and be released on his own.

Overall: 5 out of 5. Great cast and great story. The balance of drama and comedy is just right and it never lets you get too depressed and treats each character with respect.   

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