A DISCUSSION OF LAW AND JOURNALISM

Tag: Short Term 12

Hands Off “Short Term 12”

By Noah Forrest

Short Term 12” is one of the best films of the year.

In theaters now, writer/director Destin Daniel Cretton’s second feature is a gripping, emotional, and knowing glimpse into the complex relationship between foster kids in a group home and the (not much older) adults who provide much of their care.  It is rare these days for a movie to give us a dramatic (but not melodramatic) and affecting (but not affected) narrative about young people grappling with real issues that have little do with whether or not they will save the world from robot aliens.

Grace (Brie Larson in a tour de force performance that should win all the awards) is the head caretaker at a group home for foster children who are in her charge for a host of reasons.  There are three other caregivers, including her boyfriend Mason (John Gallagher, Jr. of Aaron Sorkin’s “The Newsroom,” also excellent), and together, they deal with the day-to-day issues that arise when you place a dozen young, troubled people of varying ages in a dormitory-like setting.  The early to mid-20s caregivers are not nurses or doctors or teachers, but they are expected to be parents, friends, janitors, guardians, dispensers of medicine and advice — and to mete out punishment when it is called for.

In some scenes, Grace and Mason (and other staff) are quite physical with their minor-age wards, restraining their wards who have violent outbursts that include spitting, hitting, and slamming doors.

Yet at one point in the film, while explaining the ropes to a new caretaker, Mason states matter-of-factly that if a child sets even one foot off the property the group home rests on, then all they can do is try to reason and cajole the kids back into their care.  The staff cannot physically bring them back; they, according to the film, are not allowed to lay hands on them once they are off the property.

This gave me pause.

It’s undisputed that most critics fell in love with the film, but how many movie critics are also lawyers, fixated about perplexing legal questions raised?

That’s me.  Law student by day; movie critic the rest of the time.

And here’s my question: If caretakers can restrain the minors while they’re on the property, why the big change once they get one step away?

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