Have You Seen Short Term 12?

One of my favorite movies of last year was Short Term 12. I saw it on recommendation from a friend’s mother, of all people, and dragged A to see it in theatres (we both love movies, but his penchant is generally not quiet indie fare).

It was incredible.

It’s on Netflix instant, which meant I just rewatched it tonight (I had a good day, but I was in the mood for a cry. Know how that is?). It is just stunningly powerful.

Short Term 12 is about a group of kids in a group home (Short Term 12) and the twenty-somethings who are basically their caretakers. Everyone in this movie is delicate and damaged, but clearly also intelligent and complex and fierce.

I had a really nice childhood, except for that whole mental illness thing. I never lived in a group home. But I do remember distinctly what it’s like to fly into banshee-like rages, to utter vile things to people who are trying to help, to simply become too overwhelmed to manage human interaction. I also know that when Nate and Mason hold Jayden down, sitting with her on the floor as she screams, and Grace says, “You don’t have to like me right now. Just let it pass,” that is exactly what ten-year-old me would have needed to hear.

Mental illness is devastating, and I feel so lucky to have come out the other side relatively unscathed. I am grateful to my parents even though they didn’t do everything right. I don’t know what I would have done. I forgive them.

No one wants to rage. No one wants to scream. No child who actually loves their parents wants to hurt them, really. I remember talking about those feelings, that violence, like a mutant bacteria, or even another person inside me. If I focus in, I can still find her. I will never forget how visceral those experiences were. I can never quite explain to anyone on the outside how little blonde me, little perfect home me, little meticulous focused me, flew into rages that involved knives and fists and and and and and, which I couldn’t control. I don’t think anyone who hasn’t experienced could really understand what that is.

Short Term 12 does a great job of humanizing these characters– their anger, their affection, their inability to let themselves be revealed, even when they are able to help others do so– and in doing so, it’s kind of unlike anything I’ve ever seen.

Five stars, highly recommended, two thumbs up, and spread the word.

P.S. I can also vouch personally that John Gallagher Jr. (who plays Mason) is a cool dude.

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