Variety’s Peter Debruge:
“Short Term 12” is a film about scars, some physical, others emotional, but all examined with a sensitivity and understanding that cuts deep. Set in a group home for damaged adolescents where staff members face many of the same challenges as their young charges, this compelling human drama finds fresh energy in the inspirational-teacher genre, constantly revealing new layers to its characters — none more complex than Brie Larson’s thick-skinned supervisor. Inexplicably passed over by Sundance (which awarded a short version its 2009 jury prize), the stunning SXSW fest winner puts the recent Park City competition lineup to shame.
Writer-director Destin Daniel Cretton, who based the pic on his own experience working at such an institution, embraces contradictions throughout, creating characters that are anything but simplistic, and encouraging his cast to explore all their dimensions. In fact, the ensemble is fully rounded enough that “Short Term 12” could just as easily have launched a TV series. Larson makes the most of the meticulously crafted script, designed like an artichoke to reveal its heart slowly as new information comes to light with each scene.