Short Term 12



Heartrending troubled-teen drama explores heavy themes.
  • Review Date: August 20, 2013
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 2013
  • Running Time: 96 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Kids need a safe, loving environment to heal and learn to trust again after going through hard times. Providing that kind of place is difficult, and the young people put up plenty of roadblocks, but for Grace and Mason, it can also be rewarding to help them.

Positive role models

Grace, Mason, and the other counselors at the group home strive to create a safe environment for troubled youth, sometimes while enduring emotional and physical resistance.


Brief fights between teens. Several episodes involving youth counselors who must wrestle troubled youths into submission at a group home. Two girls trade fairly graphic stories about how they were abused by their fathers. A young man tries to hurt himself with a shard of broken glass.


Some flirting between couples, and one relatively tame love scene that ends abruptly. A woman is shown bathing, though no sensitive body parts are visible.


Strong language includes "f--k," "s--t," "ass," "hell," "balls," "bitch," and more.

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Some characters occasionally smoke cigarettes, and a few scenes include social drinking at parties (not explicitly by underage characters). One teen character hides pot in his room.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that Short Term 12 refers to a group home for troubled youths, and the film centers on a supervisor who's charged with creating a safe place for them. It's a tough, honest look at people who've been through difficult experiences (abuse/molestation, cutting, etc.) and need space to heal. Expect plenty of emotional moments as the characters slowly reveal troubling episodes in their past. There's a good deal of swearing ("f--k," "s--t," and more), plus flirting, a relatively tame love scene, some drinking/smoking, and a few intense physical confrontations.

What's the story?

Grace (Brie Larson) is a supervisor at SHORT TERM 12, a group home for troubled youths. She must provide both compassion and discipline to keep her charges in line, while also making them feel safe and protected. She gets help on all fronts from her co-worker/boyfriend Mason (John Gallagher Jr.). When a teenage girl (Kaitlyn Dever) arrives, Grace tries to break through her tough exterior -- and in the process must relive some tough memories from her own past.

Is it any good?


There's nothing fleeting about the beauty of SHORT TERM 12. It's masterful storytelling, cemented by performances so authentic that you almost think you're watching a documentary. And it takes you to places that feel familiar (in dramas anyway) -- in this case, a halfway house for troubled kids -- but leads you to new places of feeling.

Larson is particularly excellent; her Grace is a classic example of heavy baggage locked up tight and bursting at the seams, but she's also warm and embracing and lovely. (There are no one-dimensional characters here.) The rest of the cast is in fine form, too, rendering the kids at the group home in full detail, thereby making their struggles feel more urgent and acute. Your heart will barely survive. In less talented hands, the film could've easily ended up a treacly, over-dramatic after-school special. Short Term 12 handily avoids that fate.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about why they think Grace and Mason are drawn to this type of work. How do their own pasts help them relate to the kids in their care?

  • Parents, talk to your kids about the teens at the group home: What do you think about their struggles? What stands in their way, and what helps them rise above their challenges?

  • Who do you think this movie is most intended to appeal to? Teens or their parents? Why?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:August 23, 2013
DVD release date:January 14, 2014
Cast:Brie Larson, John Gallagher, Jr., Kaitlyn Dever
Director:Destin Daniel Cretton
Run time:96 minutes
MPAA rating:R
MPAA explanation:language and brief sexuality

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Adult Written byPoetic Ramblings January 8, 2014

Deeply sad and wonderfully done

Manages both to be heart wrenching and smile inducing in the best ways. Painful, interesting, and rated R for a reason. At 18, I still found parts that were hard to watch, but I suspect most people will. Includes self harm, suicide attempts, and mentions of all kinds of abuse.
What other families should know
Great messages
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Adult Written byBestPicture1996 March 3, 2014

Sadly accurate in some ways, not so much in others

Unfortunately I know someone very much like Jayden, the girl "Short Term 12's" main character Grace gets to know. The movie is pitch perfect accurate when Grace and Jayden agree that harming themselves takes the pain away from what's going on in their lives, as that is EXACTLY what my friend has told me. It's a sad distortion on the truth, and a horrible way to cope with feelings, but that is how these sorts of children deal with their problems. I could tell director Cretton strove for authenticity in this film, and he achieved it somewhat, in other spots it felt a little Hollywood-ish, even for an indie. I would've loved to have seen more character development for Nate, the newbie at Short Term 12, but reversely I got a lot of that out of Grace, the breakout Brie Larson, Mason and Keith Stanfield's stoic, tragic Marcus. It's for sure worth a rent, and has great role models in people like Grace and Mason, who put their burdens aside to help these youth in need. Just don't call them "underprivileged."
What other families should know
Great role models
Too much swearing
Adult Written bywonder dove January 19, 2014

Deep & Satisfying!

Short Term 12 is an excellent film that I think many older teens and adults will really appreciate. It's one of those totally realistic, natural films with depth where everything feels so real and the acting is superb. I found it very engaging and highly emotional. It's a story about a group home (or foster care facility) supervisor Grace (Brie Larson) who, along with her long-time boyfriend Mason (John Gallagher Jr.), look after a group of teens who have come from troubled lives and are outcasts all trying to fit in and find their meaning. Grace connects with a newcomer called Jayden (Kaitlyn Dever) who seems deeply scarred from the hands of her father but both share similar struggles of family abuse. Grace tries to open her up which leads to her own troubles resurfacing that she's been able to hide for so long. Grace and Mason are an incredibly determined couple who have a lot of heart for the kids they are caring for but in order for their own relationship to stay afloat, they must both try to understand, accept and heal the scars from their past. Very heartfelt story with many different issues that a lot of people can relate to. Fantastic acting by the entire cast, I mainly viewed for the rising star who is becoming very known for her wonderful performances, Brie Larson. The language is very strong with many f-words (around 50!) including in music lyrics and sh*t, b*tch, @ss, fat-@ss, d@mn, hell, some name calling and a few sexually related words/references. Violence includes lots of fighting, pushing and some yelling and arguing, one gory scene of self-abuse where a character hurts himself with broken glass, a character picks at her cuticles of her thumb during nervous tension and we see blood, a woman slaps a man while kissing but we learn she didn't mean to, a woman almost beats a man with a bat, two characters smash and destroy a mans car, a character's fish dies, results of abuse are seen like bodily bruises, cuts and marks, references to abortion, stories of abuse are shared. Sexual content includes a couple of kisses, a making out scene with groping on a couch passionately but goes no further when she slaps him, some romantic dancing, a man openly claims he and his girlfriend have not had sex in 9 days and 13 hours, a woman gets pregnant for a second time, references to abortion, references to sexual abuse, a scene of a woman taking a bath (nothing graphic). There are some drugs when a woman finds a bag of pot in a teens room, song lyrics from a character describe his mother making him sell drugs as a child, some prescription drug talk and use. There are lots of good messages here and the two main characters are fantastic role models! Story is too strong for kids, mature 15/16 and up is fine.
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing


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