The everyday ups and downs, failures and triumphs of a foster care facility for at-risk teenagers are captured with seemingly effortless clarity and authenticity in writer-director Destin Cretton’s beguiling, deeply moving drama, scripted and performed with such realism, it carries the raw emotional heft of a great documentary. As we enter the story, Grace (Scott Pilgrim vs the World’s Brie Larson) and Mason (Newsroom’s John Gallagher Jr.), the centre’s young supervisors (who are secretly a couple), are dealing with an unexpected pregnancy, a potential runaway, and a truculent and emotionally unstable new arrival (Kaitlyn Dever), whose troubled home life dredges up unresolved issues in Grace’s own past. It could be the set-up for the best HBO series since The Wire; instead, Cretton’s astonishingly assured second feature gives us a brief yet memorable glimpse into a world of heartache, humour, difficult choices and hard-won victories, whose lightly-sketched characters have the depth and complexity of real people. A stunning achievement.
EXTRAS It would have been nice to include the original short film from which Short Term 12 was adapted; instead, we have to make do with a 20-minute compilation of behind-the-scenes footage of minimal interest to anyone outside the crew.