2013 was a vintage year for cinema. So rich was the variety and quality, that it's difficult to recall a year in recent memory to rival this year's crop. 3D finally showed signs of fulfilling its potential with Alfonso Cuarón's Gravity; Steve McQueen's 12 Years a Slave approached America's dark past with both beauty and unswerving honesty; and the artistry of Paolo Sorrentino's The Great Beauty surpassed even its great reference point, Federico Fellini’s La Dolce Vita with a gloriously impressionistic look at Rome's fading grandeur. As ever, the casualties of awards season are the smaller pictures, the independent films lacking the promotional spends of the Hollywood juggernauts. Without Harvey Weinstein to fight your corner, even the best of the festival circuit will rarely command the audiences they deserve.
One such film is Short Term 12, from writer-director Destin Daniel Cretton and based on a short film of the same name. This writer should declare his fondness for such festival fodder; it's all Sundance friendly title fonts, delicately muted cinematography and acutely observed human drama, but Short Term 12 feels special. The performances from Brie Larson and John Gallagher, Jr. are revelations and the tale of workers in a foster-care facility for at-risk teenagers is at once funny, magical, and disarmingly moving. Seek it out by whatever means possible before the trailers, tube ads and red carpet have the chance to distract you.