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Confronting Child Abuse

Short Term 12 movie discussion & analysis

I love stories and characters, and when a movie resonates with you, it can open up new
areas of philosophical study, leading towards greater self-knowledge. Movies like books
offer an audience to try somebody elses shoes; to feel empathy for characters, as they
exemplify our emotions. Movies dont purely have to be transitory entertainment; some
can have lasting effect, and even inspire you to write about them.
ver the course of a year were often aware about certain movies by the awards they win,
or by methods of marketing and advertising. I certainly agree that films such as !"ravity
deserved their accolades and attention this year; although, with so many movies being
released in any given year, it creates more of an effort on the viewer to pursue the lesser
known independent movies, which are #ust as worthy of our attention.
Im going to discuss a movie, which was released in the past year and received positive
reviews within the film industry, but has seemingly been viewed by few people and has
certainly been overlooked for an scar. $hat film is %hort $erm &', written and directed
by (estin )retton.
%hort $erm &' follows a foster care facility for abused children, run by a small group of
'*-something staff. $he main character of the story, "race, played by +rie ,arson, is a
young counsellor trying to do her best for the kids in the care facility, who have been
pulled away from the worst kinds of home situations. %hort $erm &' seeks to provide a
fun and welcoming place for the kids, where "race uses water guns to wake them, bakes
cakes, and designs thoughtful gifts for all those that come and go over the &' months.
$he movie opens with Mason, "races boyfriend and co-worker, talking to new staff
member -ate, whose character is designed here to introduce the audience into the world
of the foster home. .s Mason recalls a funny anecdote to -ate and as the other workers
arrive, it naturally feels as if youre hanging out with them - think /ichard ,inklaters
!(a0ed and )onfused. %uddenly, what breaks the conversation is %ammy, a kid at the
care home who escapes, while the group chase him across the field, as if its business as
usual. $he opening scene sets the tone for the movie, as if working at a foster home and
the surprises that can happen from one moment to the next.
$here are two kids in the foster home that the story focuses on as character studies. 1irst
there is Marcus, who is preparing to leave %hort $erm &' as he turns &2, to go back into
the real world. Marcus wants to shave his head on his birthday, before leaving the facility,
and we later find out that shaving his head is a metaphor for him moving on from his past
abuse. .fter "race shaves his hair, Marcus asks if his head is still lumpy from where his
mum beat him.
%econdly, there is 3ayden, whose dangerous behaviour has left her no choice but to #oin
%hort $erm &'. "race takes any sharp ob#ects out of 3aydens bag on their first meeting,
as a precaution to self harming. $he dialogue between the two is snappy and well written,
and the two at times seem repulsed by each other, as if looking into a mirror. "race tries
to save 3ayden, although at the expense of coming to terms with her own demons.
$hrough 3ayden, the back story of "race is revealed as she opens up to 3ayden about
being an abuse victim herself, as she was sexually abused by her own father.
Grace & Mason
.fter we get the back-story of "race, she becomes a third character study and we see her
relationship with her boyfriend Mason. 4arly on "race asks him !5hy are you so nice to
me. $he couple have sex shortly after Mason compliments her, but "race shaking and
uncomfortable, asks him to stop and eventually slaps him across the face. 6ere its
obvious that "race has low self worth, and ma#or trust issues, an effect of the abuse she
has suffered from her father. ,ater, "race tells Mason that shes going to have a baby, but
not that shes getting it aborted. $hinking about the baby, Mason asks "race to marry
$owards the end of the movie, the drama reaches its climax as Marcus commits suicide
and 3ayden is back with her abusive father, carelessly at the fault of the boss at the care
home. .lso, hearing the news that her (ad is coming out of prison, all of this proves too
much for "race and she tells Mason that she no longer wants to marry him and her plans
to have an abortion. 7pset, "race returns to 3ayden8s father8s house and breaks in,
intending to in#ure him while he sleeps, but she is interrupted by 3ayden, who suggests
that they smash his car instead. "race goes home to apologise to Mason, who tells her
that Marcus will recover. %ome weeks later, "race starts seeing a therapist to seek
through her emotional pain and considers keeping the child.
Art therapy
$he kids turning to art therapy due to their psychosis is interesting, and is part of what
makes each character study more detailed and authentic. .rt can offer catharsis for abuse
victims by working through their emotional pain, to find individual identity and freedom.
scar 5ilde once stated that - 9.rt is the most intense mode of individualism that the
world has known.:
Marcus is a talented lyricist and reads a song to Mason; his lyrics reveal the inner turmoil
of his character about the received abuse from his mother. 3ayden is a talented drawer and
when "race compliments her on a sketch, 3ayden replies !thats crap ; which confirms
her lack of self worth, as her abuse has led her to believe this. 5hen 3ayden later reads
"race a story she has written about an ctopus called -ina, "race begins to suspect she
was abused by her father by the subtext of the story and 3aydens tears over reading it.
.part from %hort $erm &' telling a gripping emotional story, you could say I have a
penchant for this movie because of the difficult sub#ect matter, but one I care deeply for -
that of parental abuse. <artly why I want to write this is not only because the movie
affected me, I also in addition my concerns that abuse is more causes in the world that we
care to notice. In order to a have a peaceful society, I believe its detrimental for parents
to raise children peacefully. <ossibly my favourite novel !"reat 4xpectations, also
focuses on these themes, where characters <ip and 4stella suffer physical, verbal and
emotional abuse throughout life, from their guardians.
I mentioned previously that some movies can inspire philosophic study and self-
knowledge. ne study I have researched and discovered is from .ces too high =adverse
childhood experiences> where theyve complied a study of over &?,*** patients. $he
studies show the commonality between child abuse and drug addiction, alcoholism,
depression, suicide, social anxiety, and remarkable physical changes that can occur in the
brain. .s expected, child abuse has a profound effect on adult life and interactions with
society. 5e often prescribe pills to kids, blame the music or movies they watch, but these
are never satisfying solutions.
It8s not that %hort $erm &' is a difficult film to watch because of its sub#ect matter, which
may automatically turn audiences away. 5hile the movie is heartbreaking, viewing the
scarred victims and knowing this really happens, it8s also an incredibly heart-warming
movie and there is a happy ending, where "race breaks the cycle of abuse in order to
become a new parent.
$he reason why the story transcends almost beyond art, imitating real life as much as a
movie can is that the writer and director (estin )retton worked into a similar foster
home. I love the movie for that autobiographical information and become realistic as if
you are watching a documentary, but with incredible acting performances at the centre.
$onally the film is structured as if it was at a home, as one minute theres dramatic
tension, laughs, tears, and how it shifts. 1eatures all human emotion for effective
$he balance which makes the film so effective, and you almost want to be a part of the
characters lives, they are likable characters to see where they go next.
In the future, as I develop my arguments further, using greater analysis I hope to focus
solely on studies of abuse.
1ull definition of the study can be found at