Director Destin Daniel Cretton’s “Short Term 12,” which won both the Audience and Grand Jury prizes at SXSW, opens the Little Rock Film Festival tonight. It’s excellent. Indie star of the moment Brie Larson stars as Grace, a young woman who oversees a section of a foster home full of kids who’ve been abused or suffer from mental illness. Grace is tough, but caring, always in control. Or so it seems, until developments in her personal life and at work dredge up a dark past and send her into a tailspin.
I know if I were reading that plot description and knew nothing else about the movie, “AVOID” in red letters would probably pop into my mind. When does a movie about troubled kids, or institutionalized people of any age, ever get it right?
Well, Cretton and his fine cast do here. Larson is a revelation. Ditto for “The Newsroom’s” John Gallagher Jr., who play’s Grace’s boyfriend and co-worker Mason. Rarely, have we seen young actors give such strong performances as Kaitlyn Dever, already showing promise as Loretta on “Justified,” and Keith Stanfield, who play the main troubled kids. Cretton avoids all the lazy stereotypes and easy manipulation we so often see in similar movies. He’s produced a naturalistic film that’s warm, funny and packs an emotional wallop.
I’m thrilled to get the chance to moderate the post-screening discussions with Cretton, Dever and Stanfield. The film screens at 6:30 p.m. at the Argenta Community Theater and again at 7:30 p.m. at The Rep. That’s collectively many, many more seats available than in years past, so don’t not come for fear of being turned away.