Short Term 12 derives its name from the place of business where the characters work. Short Term 12 is a halfway house of sorts for juvenile delinquents that are assigned there while the courts and families figure out what to do with them. Three months is the average stay, but some of the kids live there for years, waiting to turn eighteen, where they are released upon the world and have to find a way to fend for themselves. Writer/direction Destin Daniel Cretton adapts his own short film of the same name and follows the staff and residents of Short Term 12 in this emotionally draining movie.
Short Term 12 is bookended with two stories, both told by Mason (John Gallagher Jr.) with great relish. The first describes an instance where Mason defecated in his pants in front of one of the kids and the second one is about one of the kids and his success post his stay at Short Term 12. These two stories show the success of Short Term 12, as it’s focus moves from the staff to the residents. We begins by watching the staff deal with the residents and their own problems, but as the movie progresses, we realize that they may be beyond help. They’re not, but they are at an age where starting again and forgiveness is much more difficult to come by. The salvation of these people, and indeed all people, lies with the children. Life may have dealt them a bum hand, but they have the ability to rise above it and change the situation.