Short Term 12

We all act on first impressions of other people. There are good reasons for this that allow us to judge and react fast to unfamiliar situations.** But it means sometimes we don’t see other people for what they are — and sometimes we choose not to, in order not to disturb our own comfort.

A good movie can make you look deeper, beyond first impressions, to the person inside the character. (Books do this more easily, because in a good novel you are inside the other person’s point of view from the beginning.) Short Term 12 is a movie that does this very well.

The movie is intense, with dark subject matter, but it’s still hopeful and sometimes charming. It’s about Grace, a supervisor at a foster care group home for troubled kids. The people who work there must have resilience and patience to deal with kids who are traumatized and difficult to love. Grace seems to be a truly caring person, who connects with the kids on a personal level. Her strength begins to erode when she experiences changes in her own life, and must deal with demons from her past.

Short Term 12 was written and directed by Destin Daniel Cretton. The acting throughout is powerful and sensitive — especially Brie Larson’s in the character of Grace.

This movie made me appreciate more than ever those who act as loving foster parents to kids who, due to their own issues, may not respond to loving care right away. And it did a great job of showing me the people inside these sometimes surly, hostile and hurting exteriors.  Of looking past first impressions, to what’s within.

For more info, here’s a link to the movie’s website. It’s out of theaters, in my area anyway, but I was able to find it on Netflix.


** A quick look at the psychology behind first impressions, here at the Guardian and here at NPR.