Waxing [Cinematically]: The Ending of ‘Short Term 12’

I saw Destin Daniel Cretton’s Short Term 12 three months ago. It hasn’t left my mind since. It’s a movie that sticks with you — thanks to a brilliant cast, great pace, and most of all, a focus on storytelling.

That’s no more evident than in the movie’s final scene. You can find that scene here — and it has the rare distinction of not being a spoiler for the movie at all really. In fact, it’s a bit of a departure from the movie’s main plot lines, yet still embeds itself (rather deeply) in the film’s themes and purposes.

It’s an astoundingly powerful scene of storytelling. It can stand alone, really, which is all the more of an amazing feat for a movie’s final scene. Yet, you can feel the familiarity in it — both with the characters themselves and then with those characters and the subject matter of the story. This is evident when one person asks, “Marcus drinks cappuccino?” and you understand that there are preconceptions being broken here.

John Gallagher Jr. does a brilliant job moving through this story. He nearly chokes up at the end, which is the perfect cap to this story and the perfect mirror to Brie Larson’s character’s reaction. What they must have felt during the actual event of this story come back in this retelling and we bear witness to this first-hand, but belated account. And we can still see how important it is & was to these characters.

As for Larson, this was a role that she OWNED. It was one of the best lead performances I’ve seen this year and she handled the depth and vulnerability so perfectly. She truly captured the mess that comes when your life is surrounded by fucked-upness and you have dedicated yourself to helping others move past that. It’s tricky, and complicated, and to stay positive you need a few wins which is what we see from her in this scene, in its most subtle glory.

Check her out at 1:54 and then again at 2:14. This is the most important 20 seconds of the film, both for it at large and for her character. And she doesn’t even speak. Instead we get a few close ups of her and we can read into her about just the true power of this story and its meaning. So brilliantly acted, we see that this is what it all comes back to. Marcus at the coffee shop. Her work, her soul, her tears, it’s this. This is the win. This is the beauty of her surviving past her own shit to help others get through theirs.

It’s as powerful of non-verbal acting as I’ve seen. And it closes down a movie full of this kind of beauty, acting, and storytelling.

(SPOILERS, wanna see Marcus in action? Check this scene out for one of the movie’s most powerful scenes)

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