Short Term 12 and Realism

Recently, I watched the film Short Term 12 which absolutely blew my mind away. Within 90 minutes I became a Brie Larson fan, Joel P Wests score enchanted me and I had a new addition to my 100 favorite films list (coming soon). To put it simply, Short Term 12 is about the complex relationship between a couple who work at a treatment facility for kids with troubled pasts.  Usually I am great with expressing why I love a particular film, but for some reason Short Term 12 left me speechless. I have yet to think of a phrase, let alone some adjectives, to why I love this film so much. It was indeed a “hearttugger”, it made me tear up, the messages were positive, there were strong child actors, but better than all  I admired its realism.

Realism is not when an action sequence was so well done that it seemed plausible to re-create in reality, realism is not when an incredible stunt is perfected without CGI and realism is not Fast & Furious 7. Please let me elaborate on how Short Term 12 embodies cinematic realism.

The small runtime of Short Term 12 somehow finds a way to encapsulate the daily routine of Grace (Brie Larson) and her significant other Mason. It was as simple as dedicating minutes of the movie to them baking together, dedicating speechless seconds of them laying next to one another, simply donating moments of them brushing their teeth together, and my favorite directorial choice, showing Grace on her Bike (explained and visualized later). But what significance do these insignificant scenes have? By integrating these seemingly insignificant scenes, viewers subconsciously develop the idea that what they are watching is real, its actually happening, its believable. Unfortunately, if you watch Rom-Coms or most dramas today, which are supposedly mimicking real life, these insignificant scenes are rarely included or not effectively directed to evoke the verisimilitude that Short Term 12 does. Personally, as I really do enjoy movies, I despise such moments when I step out of the story and realize “oh wait….I’m watching a movie” or those moments when my eyes do linger at the blackness of the theater due to a overly ridiculous sequence of events. One of the greatest parts of walking out a movie theater, in my opinion, is having a sense of melancholy after leaving the reality of the screen that resembled, or in some cases was more epic, than our reality. In Short Term 12, which I did not watch in theaters, that magical feeling of realism is never lost. At all times, I felt fully invested in the film and faced a stage of pensive sadness when I had to “return” to actual reality.

Realism is extremely complicated to achieve and just as hard to explain, visually, however, the essence of this technique is best captured.

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The director’s choice of simply showing Grace park her bike in the same spot everyday is the strongest representation of realism in Short Term 12.  Compare our work routines to Grace’s and they’ll be quite identical, visually. We all, 5 times a week, park our cars in the same spot, walk/drive the same route to work, meet and greet the same people, wake up to the same sun and close our eyes to the same moon. But, for some reason, this is hardly depicted in modern cinema. By showing Grace parking her bike  every time she arrives at work, the repetitiveness of everyday life is so beautifully mimicked by simply showing viewers 3-5 brief seconds of her parking her bike.

Truthfully, I do not expect readers to grasp an understanding of what Realism truly means from this post but I recommend that you watch the film  to see it for yourself. If or when you do, please share what you thought about it and if you have already seen it please share why or why not you loved it.

P.S. soon enough, I will have a top 100 list encompassing my favorite movies in a series of gifs and images. Stay Tuned! at https://yilovefilm.wordpress.com/ .

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