One of my favorite films of 2013 was the indie film "Short Term 12" directed by Destin Cretton based on his previous short film of the same name. It's the story of a group home for wayward teens and the counselors who work with them, but words and labels can't do it justice. It's simply a perfect film with deeply felt performances throughout. The filmmakers bring such authenticity to it that it feels like it could be a documentary.
We follow Grace, played by Brie Larson, an early twenty-something girl, as she leads most of the groups' activities. She is in a relationship with fellow counselor Mason (Peter Gallegher Jr.) that they try to keep on the down low in front of the others, but everyone seems to know. We are also introduced to a new counselor named Nate (Rami Malek) who like most people initially has a rough time fitting in. Trying to make a good first impression on these kids is nearly impossible and when he calls them "underprivileged" Marcus, the eldest of the group is deeply offended by the term. It really is like a slap in the face to all of them. Although Nate didn't mean anything by it and is a good guy at heart he has a lot to learn.
Short Term 12 offers these kids unconditional love and support and a safe place for them to just be themselves. All of the residents, through no fault of there own, have ended up at there and must wait out their time until fate reveals itself or they turn eighteen and must leave. All of the teens are well crafted multi-dimensional characters as complicated and real as it gets. Sammy, Luis, Marcus, and the new girl Jayden are the main teens we follow throughout the film. Through their struggles, they've built up these thick walls in order to keep everybody out and It's the counselor's job to slowly but surely chip away at these walls and try to make a connection. Sammy is no more than 10 or 12 years old and has lost his only family in his younger sister. He might either be autistic or depressed but is really battling through some tough times for such a young age. Like all of the residents Luis is a good kid but a victim of circumstance. Marcus is a deeply complex man who soon turns eighteen and still fighting through some fierce emotional issues. The abuse by his mother has left deep emotional scars, but he seems up to challenge to reclaiming his life. Jayden is the new girl and almost a carbon copy of what Grace was like when she was her age. Jayden sparks something inside Grace that forces her to deal with her own brutal past. Life is now pushing Grace to a boiling point as her past, present and future all collide and she must make a decision that will affect her life forever.