'Short Term 12' Reflects Difficulties Of Group Home Life

Short Term 12, starring Brie Larsen, is about a young woman who works in a group home for teens in the foster care system. Writer-director Destin Daniel Cretton worked in a group home just out of college. His gift for character makes us like his people immediately.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

The film "Short Term 12" has won awards on the festival circuit over the past year - and now it's opening in theaters. Critic Kenneth Turan likes it.

KENNETH TURAN, BYLINE: This is a film of exceptional naturalness and empathy. It takes material about troubled young people that could have been generic and turns it into something moving and intimate. "Short Term 12" is named after the foster care group home where it's set.

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BRIE LARSON: (as Grace) Short Term 12. This is Grace.

TURAN: Grace, the staff supervisor, is not that much older than the teenage residents. Marvelously played by Brie Larson, she is a hard but fair administrator who wants the best for them.

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LARSON: (as Grace) Remember, you're not their parent. You're not their therapist. You're here to create a safe environment and that's it.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (as character) Got it.

TURAN: Though the kids don't know it, Grace is in a relationship with Mason, her second in command.

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LARSON: (as Grace) Why are you so nice to me?

JOHN GALLAGHER JR.: (as Mason) Well, that's easy. You are the weirdest, most beautiful person that I've ever met.

TURAN: Grace and Mason are in love, but Grace's wariness takes its toll on both of them. Plus these two get wrapped up in the problems of the residents, troubled, suspicious kids hiding scars from childhood abuse and trauma.

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LARSON: (as Grace) I am on the floor every day with those kids and last night that girl sat next to me and she cried and she tried to tell me the only way that she knew how.

JR.: (as Mason) Grace, it's not your job to interpret tears.

TURAN: Writer-director Destin Daniel Cretton worked in a group home just out of college. His gift for character makes us like his people immediately. His style is to reveal the actual story very gradually, one small surprise at a time. What "Short Term 12" doesn't hide is how difficult the lives of these kids are. It also shows how much they need each other, even though they wish they didn't. Sharing pain is the hardest thing for these suspicious survivors, but it also turns out to be the only thing that makes their lives bearable.

MONTAGNE: Kenneth Turan reviews movies for MORNING EDITION and the Los Angeles Times.

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MONTAGNE: From NPR News, this is MORNING EDITION.

I'm Renee Montagne.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

And I'm David Greene.

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