Have you checked your Netflix recommendations lately?

short term 12

Sometimes, something totally unexpected comes your way, and you have no way of stopping it before it changes your life forever. No, I’m not talking about love. I’m talking about Netflix recommendations.

Netflix recommendations are based on two separate algorithms, and focus on ensuring that all options that show up on your homepage are recommendations. Essentially, everything on Netflix is a recommendation. The algorithms were part of a million dollar project…but have you looked at the the “Top Picks for Insert Your Name Here” lately?

If you haven’t, you should. I finally took a peek at the list that Netflix had generated for me, and found a little gem of a film called Short Term 12. Starring the brilliant Brie Larson and John Gallagher Jr., Short Term 12 follows Grace (Larson) as she works at a facility for troubled teenagers, navigates her relationship with her co-worker/live-in boyfriend Mason (Gallagher) and battles her own demons while trying to connect with a new kid at the facility.

The relationship between Grace and Mason sits front and center of the film until the arrival of Jayden (Kaitlyn Dever), a snotty rich girl who doesn’t want to make friends at the facility because it would be a waste of time on a short-term relationship. Jayden’s arrival throws Grace’s personal and professional lives together, and bring her past kicking and screaming into the present.

Larson gives a dynamite performance as Grace, a young woman who can be tough and fierce, scared and fragile, tender and loving–all at the same time. The emotional performance is punctuated by a sheer physicality, too: she chases the kids at the facility, she rides her bike, she picks at her cuticles, she smashes a car windshield.

The beautiful, heart wrenching story is only exaggerated by the beautiful cinematography: Grace riding her bike on empty, streelit roads. Mason and Grace jumping in slow motion in a bounce house. The workers chasing a kid through the streets at sunset. Everything is magically lit, and shot in a way to make it seem like you might be there.

But my favorite part of this wonderful Netflix pick is the mysterious story of each character, unraveling after you get to know them. The subject matter of young adults making big decisions and troubled teenagers could easily have been heavy-handed or even preachy, but director Destin Daniel Cretton ensures that the drama of the story is balanced by humor and realism.

The next time you think to skip over your Netflix picks, take a second look. You might find your new favorite thing.

Image source here

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