Short Term 12

With much dismay, I discovered my Netflix “Watch list” was entirely populated with TV shows instead of movies, but I didn’t want that sort of commitment at the moment. I wanted to be in and out with closure in under two hours, man. Since Netflix has completely castrated their ratings and sorting options to be beyond useless, I did a search for “Highest rated movies on Netflix” and the internet did not fail me. The first movie in the list that I had not already seen was Short Term 12. My husband declined to watch it with me, citing that it looked like it had “too many feelings” in it, which was fair enough. I, however, have been writing a story that has a subplot involving foster children, so I thought it looked pretty interesting.

Straight up front: This was a good movie and I enjoyed it. It stars Brie Larson (before she was famous), Rami Malek (before he was famous), and John Gallagher Jr. (to which my husband glanced over and said “Hey, it’s that guy” so maybe before he was famous too?), all working in a care home for, as Rami Malek’s character so eloquently stuffs his foot in his mouth to describe, ‘disadvantaged children’.

This movie is about broken people, and it does a fantastic job of portraying how broken they are without jamming their backstories down your throat. You see them. They are broken. And there are just enough hints as to why they are broken that you don’t ask any more questions. But it never preaches at you, which I really appreciated.

That said, the plot isn’t really anything special. It’s interesting, and there are a few points in the story where I was thinking “Oh man, so this could go either this way or that way, and both of those are pretty unique twists in this story!” Instead of either of those things, it went for the absolute most vanilla storybook ending possible, which, under these circumstances, actually made it less believable than any of the more unique alternatives. For that reason alone I kinda disagree with the 98% that is currently displayed on Rotten Tomatoes. This movie could have taken some risks and really been something. Although, I have come across a comment or two about how they had to edit it a number of times because it was simply too depressing, which is maybe why it went the route that they did. Unfortunately, I think it makes the movie stumble a bit right at the end, which is a shame, but ultimately it doesn’t ruin anything.

But boy.  The depictions of emotions in this movie are, for the most part, on point.  When a character is feeling something, you feel it.  When a character is acting irrationally, you have a good idea why.  It was well done and well written.
Except for the ending.

More ramblings about that past the spoiler break:

Thus begins the spoilers:

Grace bonds with the new girl Jayden, and it is slowly revealed that Grace probably sees a lot of herself in her.  Jayden cuts herself.  Grace reveals she used to cut herself.  Jayden says she’s not staying because she’s going home to her Dad soon, but then her Dad proves unreliable and fails to pick her up as promised, which sets off a tantrum.  Through this, we learn that Grace had an abusive father (physically AND sexually), which led to many of the issues she ended up dealing with.  Grace begins to suspect that Jayden is also being abused by her father, but Jayden won’t admit it to the social workers because she’s too afraid—something Grace has intimate familiarity with.

Here’s where I started wondering if Grace is actually projecting a lot of her past experiences onto Jayden.  The girl is very reserved and not forthcoming with information, and Grace basically fills the gaps with her own story.  Grace files a report to prevent Jayden from being taken by her father, but the social workers follow up on it and find no reason to prevent the visit.  When Grace finds out Jayden went home with her father, she is livid and rushes off to the home to protect Jayden.  Through this whole sequence, Grace is acting completely irrationally, and even outright dangerously at points, because she’s whipped herself into such a fervor over this situation.

And then she gets there and oh hey look Jayden IS being physically abused and Grace saves her and they go report it to the social workers and happy ending, I guess.

There are a few things that bother me about that ending.

1: It’s way too convenient.  It’s not that it’s impossible to believe that Grace would recognize the situation, having lived through it herself… but we’re not really shown that.  We’re shown Grace making a lot of leaps in logic without a lot of evidence.  And then we’re shown Grace going completely off the deep end and way outside of the boundaries of sanity.  She breaks into the house with a goddamn baseball bat.  Even Jayden tells her she’s nuts.  ….. right before showing her the bruises her Dad inflicted on her with a belt. 

2: Like, he seriously couldn’t stop himself from whipping her with a belt when she’s home on a weekend pass?  She’s going to go back into care in two days.  What’s he gonna do, be all like “I guess she fell!” and hope no one is suspicious?  A far more sinister situation is the one where he’s completely capable of keeping the abuse hidden from investigation.

3: So, he was abusing her.  Why was she constantly talking about going back to live with him, and getting herself dressed up nicely in anticipation of being picked up by him?  This might have been intentional, since they touched on a it a bit with Grace and her father and talking about how he’s “always standing right behind you”, and they mirrored it when Marcus violently defended his mother’s honour right before revealing the information about lumps and scars all over his scalp from her beating him, but Jayden’s behaviour while waiting to be picked up doesn’t quite feel like it matches the situation.  She wasn’t anxiously waiting to be picked up, and she didn’t seem like she was in fear of displeasing him or anything like that.  She dressed up nicely, got ready, and then had a fit when he ‘forgot’ to come get her.  I feel like it would have benefitted from some more exposition showing that this situation revealed to her that he didn’t actually value her, shattering the illusion she constructed to cope with the situation, or something like that to explain her lashing out about not going off to be abused.

4: Smashing up his car was cathartic but, uh… maybe not the best kind of message to relay.  The plot is trying to be all “hey look, he’s evil after all” to make it okay.  But, what if Jayden was lying, and the bruises were from self harm, and her father is completely innocent after all?  Grats, you just super reinforced her antisocial behaviour.  Nnngh.

The movie culminates with Jayden saying “You’re gonna be a great mom”, which solidifies Grace’s decision to cancel her appointment at the abortion clinic, which she spent the entire film wrestling with.  I was actually wondering if that would go a couple of different ways, too.  Early on, I was thinking “Okay, so she’s going to realize she’s actually got the skills to be a good mom and cancel this appointment”, but then she tells her boyfriend about it like, ten minutes later and I was all “she came to the conclusion WAY too quickly for that to be the actual ending!  Oh no, that means something worse will happen…” and visions of potential outcomes started flitting through my head, up to and including her aborting it but then realizing (too late) that she wanted to be a mom… or being attacked by one of the kids at the home and having a miscarriage, and then maybe she finds out she’s infertile now so then she decides to adopt one instead!  Or something.  Anything and everything was possible, no matter how dark!

But, in the end, it was exactly what I thought in the first place.  They showed their hand early, and maybe I’ve been too influenced by Hollywood writing.

And I have to say, her boyfriend is an absolute saint throughout the whole movie, and I love that they showed how amiable and willing to roll with things he is, which is exactly why he is so good at his chosen career.  It made the moment he snapped that much more powerful.  I kind of wish they had taken that a step further.  I kind of wanted more exposition on their relationship as a whole, to be honest.  There were some really interesting dynamics in there that I don’t feel were given the attention they deserved.  Maybe those were some of the “depressing” things that were cut…

I need a concluding paragraph and I can’t really think of one so I will just say, even though I kind of disagreed with the directions the plot went, I do think it was a good movie and well worth a sit-through, provided you can handle a movie with ‘too many feelings’ in it.

 

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About tagracat
I am not a professional, I don't get paid to review shit, I am just opinionated and I seem to have some sort of disorder that results in spewing my opinions onto the internet. I enjoy writing long-winded posts about things and sometimes I like to pretend people want to read them, so a blog seemed an appropriate place to stuff it. But mostly I just like writing about things.

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