Except for a few clunky moments, "Short Term 12" is an emotionally direct drama about kids in trouble and the adults trying to help them.
The setting is a group home for at-risk teens, but the focus isn't on the teens as much as it is on the line staff who enforce the rules and deal with the kids' outbursts.
The leader on the line is Grace (Brie Larson), who's tough and loving and, as is revealed when she's dealing with one sarcastic girl, Jayden (Kaitlyn Dever), nursing some physical and psychological wounds from her own childhood. Grace also has a relationship with Mason ("The Newsroom's" John Gallagher Jr.), another line staffer.
Writer-director Destin Daniel Cretton, expanding on a 2009 short film that won top honors at Sundance, wrings some effective drama from the group home's day-to-day routine. But it's Larson, last seen in "The Spectacular Now," who shines as the caring but emotionally bruised Grace.
'Short Term 12'
Opens Friday, Sept. 20, at the Broadway Centre Cinemas; rated R for language and brief sexuality; 97 minutes.