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Short Term 12 is a 2013 American independent drama film written and directed by Destin Daniel Cretton. It is adapted from Cretton's short film of the same name, produced in 2009. The film stars Brie Larson as Grace Howard, a young supervisor of a group home for troubled teenagers. The film was the first leading performance of Larson's career.

Short Term 12
Short Term 12 Theatrical Poster
Theatrical release poster
Directed byDestin Daniel Cretton
Produced byMaren Olson
Asher Goldstein
Joshua Astrachan
Ron Najor
Written byDestin Daniel Cretton
Music byJoel P. West
CinematographyBrett Pawlak
Edited byNat Sanders
Distributed byCinedigm
Release date
  • March 10, 2013 (2013-03-10) (SXSW)
  • August 23, 2013 (2013-08-23) (United States)
Running time
96 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
Budgetunder $1 million[2]
Box office$2.3 million[3]

Cretton based Short Term 12 on his own experience working in a group facility for teenagers. He first wrote and produced a short film exploring this and later adapted it into a feature-length screenplay. While Larson and John Gallagher, Jr. won their roles after auditioning through Skype, most of the children featured in the film were cast through open casting calls. Filming took place over twenty days in Los Angeles, California in September 2012.

Short Term 12 premiered on March 10, 2013 at South by Southwest, where it won the Grand Jury and Audience Awards for a Narrative Feature. The film was theatrically released in the United States on August 23, 2013, by Cinedigm. Made on a budget of less than $1 million and given a limited release, the film brought in strong box office receipts, grossing over $2.3 million.[2] The film was widely acclaimed. Critics praised its realism and intimacy, with particular attention drawn to Larson's performance and Cretton's screenplay and direction. The film is considered one of the best films of 2013, appearing on several critics' year-end lists. It was listed by the National Board of Review as one of the Top Ten Independent Films of 2013. It earned three Independent Spirit Award nominations, including Best Female Lead, for Larson.


Grace Howard is the young supervisor of Short Term 12, a group home for troubled teenagers. She lives with her long-term boyfriend and coworker, Mason, but finds it difficult to open up to him emotionally. When Grace finds out she is pregnant, she schedules an appointment for an abortion; she eventually tells Mason about the pregnancy, who is overjoyed. She does not tell him she plans to have an abortion. At their facility, Grace and Mason focus their efforts on Marcus, a resident who is about to turn 18 and is struggling with the prospect of leaving the facility.

Grace bonds with Jayden, a recent arrival at Short Term 12 who has a history of self-harm. Jayden distances herself from the other teenagers, as she does not intend to stay at the facility for long. When her father fails to pick her up on her birthday, she reacts violently toward the staff. After her outburst, she sits in the "cool-down room" with Grace, who shows Jayden her own scars from cutting herself. That night, Jayden leaves the facility in the middle of her birthday celebrations. Unable to force her to return, Grace follows Jayden to her father's house. After finding the house empty, they return to Short Term 12. When Jayden reads Grace a cryptic story she has written, Grace begins to suspect that Jayden was abused by her father.

At a party hosted by Mason's foster parents, he proposes to Grace, who accepts. The following morning, Grace is upset by a phone call that reveals her father is being released from prison. She refuses to be consoled by Mason. She arrives at Short Term 12 to discover that Jayden has been picked up by her father overnight. She is angry at the decision to send Jayden back to her father, but her boss maintains that Jayden denied that she was abused by him. Later that day, Grace finds that Marcus has attempted to commit suicide after the death of his fish.

While waiting at the hospital as Marcus is being treated, Grace breaks down. Mason becomes upset for her refusing to talk to him about how she feels; instead, she tells him that she no longer wants to marry him and that she plans to have an abortion. She returns to Jayden's father's house and breaks in, intending to injure him while he sleeps, but she is interrupted by Jayden, who suggests that they smash his car instead. Grace tells Jayden that she was sexually abused by her own father. After Jayden shows Grace bruises from blows by her father, they return together to Short Term 12, where Jayden reports her father for physical abuse. Grace goes home to apologize to Mason, who tells her that Marcus will recover.

Several weeks later, Grace starts seeing a therapist. She is shown viewing an ultrasound of her fetus with Mason. Mason tells the rest of the staff about running into Marcus, who is doing well and has a girlfriend.



Destin Daniel Cretton based Short Term 12 on his experiences working in a similar facility.

Short Term 12 was originally conceived by Destin Daniel Cretton as a short film based on his experiences as a line staff worker at a group facility for teenagers where he had worked for two years; it served as his thesis project for his master's degree in film at San Diego State University.[4][5]:5 The short film ran for 22 minutes and premiered at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival, where it won the Jury Prize in Short Filmmaking.[4] After graduating from film school, Cretton decided to adapt the short into a feature-length screenplay, which won one of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' five Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting in 2010.[5]:5 The largest change Cretton made when adapting the short film into a longer screenplay was changing the lead character's gender: Denim, a man loosely based on Cretton himself, became Grace, a young woman and the facility's supervisor.[5]:5[6] Cretton researched similar facilities and interviewed former employees for the film, noting that the script featured stories directly told by children in these facilities from his interviews.[7]

Brie Larson auditioned for the role of Grace via Skype after the script had been sent to her;[8] John Gallagher, Jr. also won his role after a Skype conversation with Cretton, calling the screenplay "probably the best script that I've been sent, ever".[9] Larson and Gallagher prepared for their roles by shadowing line staff at a group home similar to that in the film, and collaborated to create backstories for their characters.[5]:7–8 Lakeith Stanfield was the only actor from the original short film to reprise his role in the feature.[5]:10 Cretton struggled to contact Stanfield when casting the film in 2012—Stanfield had stopped acting, left his managers, and did not own a cell phone—but Cretton was eventually able to reach him by email to tape an audition.[5]:10[10] Most of the children featured in the film were cast through open casting calls, and most had no prior acting experience.[10] Alex Calloway, who played Sammy, found a casting call through Craigslist and won the role after sending in a cell phone video audition.[5]:8

The film was shot over 20 days in September 2012.[5]:5 Filming took place in Los Angeles, and scenes set at the group home were shot at a former short-stay facility located near the neighborhood of Sylmar.[6][11] The film was edited by Nat Sanders as it was filmed. Both the original cut of the film and the shortened director's cut were over 2 hours long, whereas Cretton wanted the final cut to be under 100 minutes.[12] Sanders said that the original cut of the film felt too heavy and "made you feel pretty depressed about humanity", so a number of scenes were deleted or trimmed to "lighten up" the film's mood, with a final running time of 96 minutes.[12]


Short Term 12 premiered in March 2013 at the South by Southwest Film Festival in Austin, Texas, where it won the Grand Jury and Audience Awards in the Narrative Feature category and was purchased for distribution by Cinedigm.[13] Its international premiere was held at the Locarno Film Festival in August 2013, where it received a standing ovation.[13]

In theaters, the film was given a platform release: on August 23, it was released in Los Angeles and New York City, expanding the next weekend to Phoenix, Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, Boston and Berkeley, and progressively expanding to more cities until its widest release on September 13.[14]


Box officeEdit

The film grossed $56,206 in its opening weekend, playing in four theaters, with a per-theater average of $14,052 that was considered a strong result by Forbes magazine's Mark Hughes.[2] Overall, it earned a total of $1,013,100 in North America over a total of 26 weeks in theaters, with a widest release of 75 theaters, and $632,064 outside the United States for a total of $1,645,164.[15][16]

Critical responseEdit

Brie Larson's performance in her first leading role received widespread praise from critics.

On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 98% based on 160 reviews, with an average rating of 8.9/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "Short Term 12 is an emphatic, revealing drama that pulls audiences into the perspective of neglected youths."[17] On Metacritic the film has a weighted average of 82 out of 100, based on 36 critics, indicating "universal acclaim".[18]

Germain Lussier of /Film wrote of the film, "The whole thing just feels perfect or magical, a shining example of what cinema is all about", adding, "The performances are mindblowing, the writing sharp, and the direction beautiful. It's a very special movie."[19] In Variety, critic Peter Debruge wrote, "the stunning SXSW fest winner puts the recent Park City competition lineup to shame ... this compelling human drama finds fresh energy in the inspirational-teacher genre, constantly revealing new layers to its characters."[20] In a review for the Los Angeles Times, Kenneth Turan described Short Term 12 as "a small wonder", "a film of exceptional naturalness and empathy", and "moving and intimate", offering particular praise to the film's honesty and plausibility.[21] Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian, on the other hand, criticized the film's credibility, describing it as "well intentioned, but somehow inauthentic" with a "too-cute-to-be-true ending".[22]

The Hollywood Reporter's John DeFore called the film "genuinely moving" and "effortlessly balanced ... Brett Pawlak's handheld camerawork and Cretton's unsentimental direction have a frankness that acknowledges the dramatic extremes in these lives without needing to parade it before the audience."[23] Manohla Dargis from The New York Times also praised Cretton's direction, saying he "brings you into this coed group home and the lives of its inhabitants casually, with images and scenes that, no matter how transparently considered, feel as if they had been caught on the fly."[24]

Brie Larson's performance as Grace was singled out for praise by critics. Katie Walsh of Indiewire wrote, "[Larson] manages to convey her character as someone fierce and strong and steely, and also utterly fragile, delicate, scared and broken ... It's an incredible emotional and physical performance, and she's a whirlwind."[25] Similarly, Empire critic Ian Freer felt that Larson gave "a whirling dervish of a performance ... She, like the film, breaks your heart and raises your spirit in one fell swoop."[26]


Award Date of ceremony Category Recipient(s) and nominee(s) Result Ref.
Austin Film Critics Association December 17, 2013 Best Film Short Term 12 Nominated [27]
Best Actress Brie Larson Won
Breakthrough Artist Won
Black Reel Awards February 13, 2014 Best Supporting Actor Lakeith Stanfield Nominated [28]
Best Breakthrough Performance Nominated
Boston Society of Film Critics December 8, 2013 Best Actress Brie Larson Runner-up [29]
Boston Online Film Critics Association January 16, 2014 Best Actress Brie Larson Runner-up [30]
Chicago Film Critics Association December 16, 2013 Best Actress Brie Larson Nominated [31]
Most Promising Filmmaker Destin Daniel Cretton Won
Critics' Choice Movie Awards January 16, 2014 Best Actress Brie Larson Nominated [32]
Detroit Film Critics Society December 13, 2013 Best Film Short Term 12 Nominated [33]
Best Actress Brie Larson Won
Breakthrough Performance Won
Best Screenplay Destin Daniel Cretton Nominated
Dorian Awards December 2, 2013 Unsung Film of the Year Short Term 12 Won [34]
Flanders International Film Festival Ghent October 22, 2013 Port of Ghent Public Choice Award Short Term 12 Won [35]
Gotham Independent Film Awards December 2, 2013 Best Actress Brie Larson Won [36]
Hamptons International Film Festival October 14, 2013 Breakthrough Performer Brie Larson Won [37]
IndieWire Critics Poll December 17, 2013 Best Lead Performance Brie Larson 6th place [38]
Top 50 Films of the Year Short Term 12 16th place
Independent Spirit Awards March 1, 2014 Best Female Lead Brie Larson Nominated [39]
Best Supporting Male Lakeith Stanfield Nominated
Best Editing Nat Sanders Won
Los Angeles Film Critics Association December 8, 2013 Best Actress Brie Larson Runner-up [40]
Locarno International Film Festival August 17, 2013 Golden Leopard Short Term 12 Nominated [41]
Best Actress Brie Larson Won
Junior Jury Award (International Competition) Destin Daniel Cretton Won
Prize of the Ecumenical Jury Won
Los Angeles Film Festival June 23, 2013 Audience Award for Best Narrative Feature Short Term 12 Won [42]
Little Rock Film Festival May 19, 2013 Narrative Feature Short Term 12 Won [43]
Maui Film Festival June 18, 2013 Narrative Feature Drama Short Term 12 Won [44][45]
Rising Star Award Brie Larson Won
Nantucket Film Festival June 30, 2013 Screenwriting in a Feature Film Destin Daniel Cretton Won [46]
National Society of Film Critics January 4, 2014 Best Actress Brie Larson Runner-up [47]
National Board of Review December 4, 2013 Top Independent Films Short Term 12 Won [48]
Online Film Critics Society December 16, 2013 Best Picture Short Term 12 Nominated [49]
Best Actress Brie Larson Nominated
Best Adapted Screenplay Destin Daniel Cretton Nominated
San Diego Film Critics Society December 11, 2013 Best Film Short Term 12 Nominated [50]
Best Director Destin Daniel Cretton Nominated
Best Adapted Screenplay Nominated
Best Actress Brie Larson Nominated
Best Performance by an Ensemble Short Term 12 Nominated
San Francisco Film Critics Circle December 15, 2013 Best Actress Brie Larson Nominated [51]
Santa Barbara International Film Festival February 4, 2014 Virtuoso Award Brie Larson Won [52]
Satellite Awards February 23, 2014 Best Original Song "So You Know What It's Like", written by Lakeith Stanfield and Destin Daniel Cretton Nominated [53]
South by Southwest Film Festival March 16, 2013 Narrative Feature Short Term 12 Won [13]
Audience Award: Narrative Feature Won
Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival November 30, 2013 Best Youth Film Short Term 12 Nominated [54]
Best Film Won
Valladolid International Film Festival October 26, 2013 Official Section Audience Award Short Term 12 Won [55]

Top ten listsEdit

Short Term 12 was listed on many film critics' top ten lists.[56]

"Oscars snub"Edit

Despite the universal acclaim from critics and audiences alike, Short Term 12 was completely shunned by every major industry awards organization from receiving a nomination, especially at the Academy Awards, an action criticized by numerous critics, publications and audience members.[84] Major criticism was drawn towards the perceived snub of Brie Larson, whose performance was widely acclaimed and was cited by various critics and publications as one of the best performances of the year.[85][86][87] While Forbes called her snub "shocking", The Atlantic called it "disappointing" but "hardly shocking", considering it was a small-budgeted independent film.[84][88]


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External linksEdit