Destin Daniel Cretton -- his first name says it all -- this humble, Haiku home-schooled, senior year at Maui High School, prize-winning filmmaker and writer, is destined for a very bright future. His film short Drakmar: a Vassal's Journey, which he co-directed, in 2006 won best documentary at the San Diego Comic-Con International. Then, in 2009, a short version of Short Term 12 won Best Short Award at the Sundance Film Festival. In 2010, he won an Academy of Arts and Sciences Nicholl Prize for his script of I am Not a Hipster, which was shown in the next category at Sundance, then he won another cash award from the Nicholl's to complete post production on his latest feature, which he wrote as well as directed, Short Term 12.
ST 12 won the audience award and the grand jury prize at the 2013 South by Southwest Festival in Austin and had its Maui premiere on June 16th, when it won the audience award for best narrative feature drama.
This powerful film is a wonderful love story. When i was studying in New York, one of my teachers used to ask, "Where is the love? If there's no love, we aren't interested." Well, this film has every kind of love there is and I guarantee when you see it, you will love it as well.
Cretton, who is a great storyteller and creates engaging, real characters, spent two years working in an adolescent residential center so he knows this subject intimately, but he insists this film, which at times feels like a documentary, is a work of fiction.
The film centers around Grace, a 20-something counselor at an adolescent residential center. Her life mirrors the kids that she is caring for. Played by Brie Larson in a performance worthy of an Oscar, with truth and honesty seldom seen on the screen, this is a story, which brings the audience into the world of troubled adolescents. These young people are in the center because they have either been abandoned by their parents, committed to this place because their parents couldn't handle them or they have no parents or family to care for them.
We see their daily routine and the behaviors the staff is subjected to and how they understand and control these extremely difficult and often volatile situations.
Grace is a complex character, who is hiding lots of secrets. She is hiding her relationship with a co-worker, Mason, played by Newmakers and Tony Award-winning John Gallagher Jr. She refuses to share her past with him and she is trying to deal with being pregnant.
Into this cauldron comes Jadyn, a goth girl who doesn't want to be a part of the "family." She declares in her first meeting that she doesn't want to participate because she will be leaving soon. Kaitlyn Dever of ABC's Last Man Standing embodies the essence of adolescent angst in this power house performance.
Also there is tension between Marcus, Keith Stanfield and Luis, Kevin Hernandez. It explodes when Marcus' pet fish dies and Luis is suspected of piscicide. Keith Stanfield is another exceptionally strong performer who imbues Marcus with depth and complexity. his rap, which I was told he wrote, is both insightful into the character and haunting.
I said this was a love story and it is. Mason is the lover. He loves the kids, he loves his foster family and he loves Grace. His character is the new leading man, sensitive, yet strong, caring without being controlling, loving without being stifling. A true breath of fresh air in male characters.
Cretton has gotten truthful, real performances from young people for whom this is their first film and from veterans like Larson who has been working since she was a child. There is not a weak link in this great cast.
This film has everything: A great story that will touch your heart and your funny bone. Wonderful characters that you root for every moment, and important things to say about youth and young people.
Cretton should get an Oscar nod for writing and directing. Larson is this year's best actress. She should get the Oscar for this work.