Originally adapted from a short film about the writer’s experiences working as line staff at a residential treatment facility for young people dealing with the after-effects of domestic abuse, Short Term 12 is an intimate look into the lives of residents and staff members during a particularly revelatory week at the center.
Grace and Mason, a long-time couple who work together in the facility, are the true heart of the film. Grace dedicates her life to the kids with a zeal and a love both complicated and enhanced by her own past trauma, a trauma which rears its head when a girl comes to the center with a story similar to Grace’s own.
The facility at the center of the film is bathed in golden light, the colors are soft, the noise is muted – all reflecting how hard Grace has worked to create a safe space for her kids. As Grace explains, “I take good care of everyone.” Yet Grace has still not managed to find the same haven for herself – she has a wonderful partner and a job that she loves, yet she is still haunted by events in her past.
This is a film about our own narratives. How do our stories define us? In the case of abuse, the film clearly shows us that we can become trapped within the stories of our lives, daily reliving horrors from months and years ago. But these same stories of horror can be used, as Grace does again and again with her kids, to forge a connection with others and claim ownership of our histories. It is no coincidence that the movie is framed by a story at the beginning and the end – the power of how we choose to claim our own stories should never be underestimated.
Raw, honest, beautiful, funny – this movie will make you love its characters like I couldn’t help doing. I highly, highly recommend it.