“Short Term 12”: Working with at-risk teens, and taking your work home with you

shortterm12

“Short Term 12” opens Friday at Sundance Cinemas. R, 1:36, three and a half stars out of four.

“Short Term 12” opens and closes with scenes that could be mirror images of each other, of a troubled teen attempting to escape his group home while his minders chase after him. The first time it’s played as tense drama, the second as almost uplifting comedy.

Same scenario, same characters. But writer-director Destin Daniel Cretton changes enough details to make the two scenes feel utterly different. And, more significantly, by the last scene we’ve spent so much time with these counselors and their charges, grown to love and worry for them, that our perspective is really what’s changed.

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