Welcome to Movie of the Week! This weekly column will supply you with a recommendation of a movie—from Netflix— that I think you should watch over the weekend instead of just binge-watching yet another season of “The Office” or “House of Cards” (though we all know those are totally valid and great options). These films will range from blockbusters, to independent films, to great works of art spanning any decade Netflix has in their library.
This week, our film is a small independent film that came out in 2013 and stars Brie Larson (who just won her first of hopefully many Academy Awards) in her breakout role: “Short Term 12.”
A surprising smash-hit at the South by Southwest Film Festival, “Short Term 12” is the type of movie that is so freaking good, but nobody ever sees it due to its independent roots. Though it is no walk-in-the-park due to some heavy, traumatizing subject matter, it is so beautifully acted and realized that the characters peel off the screen and enter your lives and stick with you.
Larson plays Grace, the supervisor of a foster-care center for teenagers while also coping with some difficult situations that have presented themselves to her. Larson shows brilliance even in this early role of hers, capturing the sort of struggles she would later face in her award-winning role in Room—someone who must be a caretaker when she just desperately needs help herself.
Destin Daniel Cretton populates his world with realistic characters all dealing with their own personal struggles on top of childhood and adolescence. John Gallagher Jr., who plays Mason—Grace’s boyfriend—is heartwarming and goofy, offering up a nice balance of humor to offset the seriousness. The younger cast, which includes the likes of Alex Calloway, Kevin Hernandez, Kaitlyn Dever, and Keith Stanfield, give powerful, committed performances for being fresh faces to the screen.
In many ways, the film is simply about that hard thing we all must do at one point or another—grow up. While it may be a hard film to watch at times, don’t let that keep you away from how simply superb it is, showing the bright start to incredible careers that are now being really recognized. If you are a fan of Brie Larson, see where she first knocks it out of the park here; and even if you aren’t, I can tell you now you will be after it’s over.
Scott Johnson is a senior Film Studies and Journalism double major. You can follow him on Twitter @scott7893 and find more of his reviews at RagingFilm.com