A little movie can have an awfully big impact. Destin Cretton's Short Term 12 — an equal parts heart breaking and life-affirming drama — is one that will, and should, get people talking. The film, which debuted at the SXSW festival on Sunday, is not only a star vehicle for its tremendously talented, young ensemble (including a career-making performance by 21 Jump Street's Brie Larson) but a conversation piece film, and an important, timely one at that.
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Rooted deeply in humility and realism (likely thanks largely in part to Cretton's own real-life experiences with the subject matter at hand) Short Term 12 chronicles the lives of dedicated supervisors at a residence for troubled youths and the very kids they are trying to help. Two of the supervisors, Grace (Larson) and Mason (an impressive, effective John Gallagher Jr.) are in a relationship and are trying to navigate their own complications while dealing with the heaviness that comes with their line of work.
All of the kids at the facility break your heart in their own specific way (mine particularly ached for a shy boy named Sammy who only found solace in small dolls), like Mason, Grace, and the rest of the staff, all you want to do is hug them and tell them it's going to be alright. Even when it's best not to. As the film progresses (it moves swiftly) we learn that Grace isn't just in this line of tough work because it's noble, but because she is a survivor of abuse herself. Grace takes particular interest in a new resident, a young girl named Jayden (a vulnerable, stunning Kaitlyn Dever) whose tragic upbringing mirrors her own. If Grace can't change her past, she can at least try everything in her power to change Jayden's future.
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But what really will get the conversation —not only here in Austin, but when the movie is seen by even wider audiences — is how expertly and sensitively it deals with mental illness. Where other films like Silver Linings Playbook can play it up for laughs (that's not to say Short Term 12 doesn't have it's moments of levity, in addition to be downright harrowing at times, it's also got moments that are charming and genuinely funny) Cretton's film sheds light on taboo topics like suicide and self-harm like cutting, putting them in terms those mercifully out of the spectrum can understand. For those who suffer, and/or love those who do suffer, will not only be relieved to see an accurate depiction, but one that will change hearts and minds.
Short Term 12 is a beautiful movie in every sense of the word, it is beautifully shot, beautifully scored, and beautifully acted. It's a lovely, honest tearjerker of a film that will make you want to help make the world a better place. How many movies these days, at SXSW or elsewhere, can say that?
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[Photo credit: SXSW]
In the beginning of the Dark Ages the warlords of England are brutally kept in line by the Irish King Donnchadh (David O'Hara). Tristan (James Franco) has grown up hating the Irish for killing his family and has made a strong allegiance to father figure Lord Marke (Rufus Sewell) while Isolde (Sophia Myles) Donnchadh's daughter has grown up under her father’s thumb. After a fierce battle that leaves Tristan near death he washes up on Irish soil and is nursed secretly back to health by Isolde who tells him she’s someone else. The two fall madly in love but Tristan must return to England before he’s discovered. Meanwhile Donnchadh decides to stage a tournament between all the champions of England with his daughter as the prize. Tristan ends up winning the princess' hand for Lord Marke but is horrified to find out she’s his own true love. Tristan and Isolde now must suppress their love for the sake of peace and the future of England. But despite their best efforts to stay apart the lovers are driven inexorably together. Despite the fact that Franco (Spider-Man) and Myles (Underworld) look lovely rolling around on the ground in romantic trysts and gazing forlornly at one another you don’t necessarily feel any heat between them. That seems to be mostly the fault of Franco who plays the young Tristan far too stoically. We understand he’s a tortured soul torn between duty and love with his eyes perpetually half-filled with tears. But couldn’t he have shown a little more passion (and while he’s at it washed his hair)? The luminous Myles is better at showing her burning desire but she too is left many times sad and weepy. Only Sewell (Legend of Zorro) who is usually delegated to playing bad guys shows any kind of raw emotion as he first falls genuinely in love with his bride--and then is betrayed by her and the only son he ever knew. He’d probably make a great King Arthur. As the Celtic myth of Tristan and Isolde predates the Arthurian legend as well as Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet you can easily see how those two more famous stories were possibly formed. Tristan & Isolde is a classic story of forbidden passion set against political upheaval as well as a tale about a tragic love triangle. Producers Ridley and Tony Scott had been fascinated with the legend for many years and finally got the opportunity to bring it to the big screen. Ridley however who directed last summer’s medieval fare Kingdom of Heaven wisely chose to hand over the directing reins to Kevin Reynolds (Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves) who adequately paints a picture of a time when chaos reigned. Maybe Tristan & Isolde is not as compelling or romantic as the king of them all Braveheart but it is certainly far more accessible than say Kingdom of Heaven. Sorry Ridley.