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Short Term 12 [2013] [R] - 5.5.9



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Unlike the MPAA we do not assign one inscrutable rating based on age, but 3 objective ratings for SEX/NUDITY, VIOLENCE/GORE and PROFANITY on a scale of 0 to 10, from lowest to highest, depending on quantity and context.

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Sex & Nudity
Violence & Gore
1 to 10


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A woman (Brie Larson) and her group of 20-somethings staff a foster care facility for troubled teens. As she tackles the next step of her relationship with her long-term boyfriend (John Gallagher Jr.), she meets a teen girl who reminds her of her own rocky childhood. Also with Kaitlyn Dever, Stephanie Beatriz, Rami Malek and Frantz Turner. Directed by Destin Cretton. [1:36]

SEX/NUDITY 5 - A young woman kisses a man, then pulls away, they kiss passionately, and the young man lays the young woman against a couch and he is on top of her; as they kiss, the young man puts his hand at the young woman's crotch and begins to stimulate her (they are both fully clothed) until the young woman abruptly slaps the young man, and then immediately apologizes (please see the Violence/Gore category for more details).
 A young man and a young woman dance with their arms around one another and they kiss. A young man and a young woman lie in bed together, fully clothed, holding hands.
 A young man tells a young woman that they had not had sex in "nine days and 13 hours" and the young woman teases the young man for having a count of days and hours. A young man makes a crude joke about climaxing. A young woman jokingly tells a young man (her boyfriend) that she is involved in a relationship with her bicycle and the young man jokes about his "seat" (backside) being more comfortable than the bike. During a medical appointment, a young woman tells a female doctor that she had previously been pregnant.
 A teen girl asks a young woman if she can put pictures of male genitalia on her wall as decoration and the young woman responds yes, as long as they are scientific; we later see the teen girl's room decorated with five scientific diagrams of male genitalia and the young woman sees it and acknowledges the drawings as the teen girl jokes that she is "learning a lot." We see a teen girl's head resting against a scientific drawing of male genitals.
 A pre-teen boy is seen shirtless and wearing what appears to be long-john style underwear; his bare back and chest are visible nearly throughout the movie. We see a teen boy with towel around his waist and his bare back is visible. A shirtless pre-teen boy is seen wrapping a flag around his shoulders. A teen boy sits shirtless with his bare back and chest visible. We see a pre-teen girl wearing a robe (no nudity is visible). We see a young woman in the shower with her bare shoulders visible. We see a young woman in a bathtub and her bare shoulders are visible. A young woman lifts up a portion of her shirt and we see a small part of her bare torso. A young woman's dress has an opening in the back that shows a small amount of her bare lower back.

VIOLENCE/GORE 5 - We see a teen boy holding a bloody piece of broken glass when a young woman discovers him and believes that he has injured another teen boy; she runs to the second teen boy and finds him unharmed as the first boy slumps over, leaving a streak of blood on the doorway; we see his forearm with large deep gashes and the woman races to his side; we see her waiting in a hospital waiting room with blood on her shirt and hands and a young man is seen washing the blood from the doorway (we learn that the teen boy survived the suicide attempt).
 A teen girl angrily carves small bloody cuts on her hand with her thumbnail. A teen girl is picking at her hand with her thumbnail and we see a small amount of blood on her thumbnail and injured hand. As a nervous tick, a young woman picks at the cuticles of her thumb (we see her thumb bloody) and she accidentally smears the blood on her temple.
 A teen boy shoves another teen boy (one of the teens is much taller and larger than the one being shoved) to the ground; the teen boy shouts at him and we see a young woman grab the attacking teen boy and pull him away as a second young woman takes the other teen boy and sits with him, verifying that he is unharmed.
 A teen girl runs out of a room and slams her bedroom door as a young woman and two young men race after her; the young woman tries to force open the door while the teen girl on the other side of the door screams profanities and punches the young woman in the face with a cupcake when she gets through the door; the two young men grab the teen girl, hold her arms and lower her to the floor as she continues to scream and she spits on one of the young men's faces (we see spittle leave her mouth and land on his face); the girl calms down and we see the young woman (with smashed cupcake on her face), the girl and two young men laughing and the young man with spittle on his face is later seen wiping a large amount of hand sanitizer gel on his face.
 On two different occasions we see the following: A pre-teen boy runs at top-speed out the door of a facility, two young men and a young woman race after him, the men grab his arms and lower him to the ground, the woman speaks to him calmly as the boy shouts obscenities and within seconds the boy calms, stands up and walks back into the facility with the young woman and young men.
 A young woman slaps a young man as they are kissing passionately; the young woman is upset and it appears that she slapped the young man as a reflex and did not mean to harm him.
 A young woman uses a key to enter a house without permission and accidentally knocks over a basket; she walks around the house and stands over a sleeping man while holding a bat in her hand (it is implied that she is about to strike the man with the bat) when a teen girl walks past the open door and makes a remark to the young woman; we then see the young woman and the teen girl sitting outside (the sleeping man is unharmed) and the teen girl makes a remark about the young woman thinking about killing her sleeping father with a bat, and then takes the bat and smashes two car windows; the young woman takes the bat from the teen girl and bashes in the windshield, repeatedly striking the windshield and small amounts of glass shatter until a massive hole is in the windshield.
 A young woman abruptly pulls a pillow from under the head of a teen boy and asks him if he is responsible for the death of another teen boy's fish; the teen boy denies it. A teen boy aggressively speaks to a young man, and then storms away after a young woman scolds him. A young woman storms out of a man's office, grabs a lamp on her way out, walks briskly through a facility, exits and smashes the lamp on the ground. A young woman shouts at a man, saying that a teen girl had admitted to being abused by her father until the man calms her down and makes her stop shouting; he tells her that she needs actual proof to take custody away from the father, and the man adds that he wants to attack people who harm children, but he knows it is not possible. A young man half-jokingly tells a young woman that he is going to allow a teen boy to "kick the s*** out of him." A young woman cries and silently screams in the shower and we see her place a washcloth over her face and gasp.
 A young woman tearfully tells a teen girl that she had been physically and sexually abused by her father, including being impregnated by him, and having to testify against him in open court; the teen girl then shows the young woman bruises on her upper thigh and tells her that her father would beat her with a belt. We overhear a portion of a conversation between a teen girl, a male therapist and an older woman (presumably a social worker) and it is implied that the girl is telling them that her father abuses her. A teen boy raps a song for a young man that has lyrics about his mother beating him and forcing him to sell drugs for her. A young woman shows a teen girl a large patch of scars on her ankle as she tells her that she had cut herself after being abused by her father and about the death of her mother. A teen girl tells a young woman a story about an octopus slowly being eaten by a shark and the young woman interprets it as an allegory for the teen girl's father abusing her. A young man tells a young woman that the young woman's father is about to be released from prison. A young woman tells a teen girl that her father, who was imprisoned for abusing her, is about to be released from prison. A young woman interrupts a story that a young man is telling another young man and announces that the teen boy that the young man is telling the story about was found dead two days later. A young woman tells another young woman that a teen boy's fish had died and we see the young woman approach the boy, who is sitting next to a knocked over fish tank. A young woman tells a teen girl that she must keep her door open and the young woman later tells a young man that the teen girl must keep her door open because she is a "cutter" (self-mutilation). A teen boy asks a young woman if he has scars and lumps on his head; the young woman says no and the boy begins to cry, saying that his mother used to hit him on the head regularly. A young man tells a young woman that a teen girl has been in therapy and group homes after the death of her mother. A young woman asks a female doctor if she can make an appointment for an abortion. A young woman tells a young man that she has made an appointment to have an abortion (the young man is the father).
 A young man tells another young man a story (two women are also listening) about how he followed a teen boy that left a foster care facility, and that he was suffering from an upset stomach and defecated on himself in front of the teen boy, who laughed as he saw feces running down his leg, just after threatening to rip the man's genitals off; the young man is later teased by a teen boy for defecating on himself and a young woman interrupts and tells the young man not to tell any more stories about defecation. A young man uses a joking slang-phrase to say that a woman had urinated in the water (meaning she ruined a story). A young man jokes that he had almost urinated on himself.
 A young woman playfully grabs a pillow from under a sleeping teen boy's head and sprays him in the face with a water pistol; the young woman laughs and walks out, then playfully sprays a young man in the face with a water pistol. A young woman and teen girl playfully shove, punch and throw a ball at a bouncy punching blow-up doll.
 We see a tight-zoom of a cockroach on the ground.

PROFANITY 9 - About 48 F-words and its derivatives, 7 sexual references, 22 scatological terms (4 mild), 11 anatomical terms, 25 mild obscenities, 1 derogatory racial term, name-calling (deaf [derogatory term for homosexuals deleted], weird guy, joke, fat [anatomical term deleted], newbie, look like a homeless guy, trip, old, smart [anatomical term deleted], punk kid scared of everything), we hear non-translated Spanish profanity, 1 religious profanity (GD), 2 religious exclamations (God). [profanity glossary]

SUBSTANCE USE - A young woman finds a marijuana joint and baggie of what appears to be loose marijuana in a teen boy's room, a young woman advises a teen boy that he could be "sent to juvie" for possession of a drug, a teen boy raps song lyrics about his mother forcing him to sell drugs as a young child, a teen girl tells a young woman to ask a doctor for a prescription to help her sleep, a young woman places a tray with small cups on it (implied to have prescription drugs in them) in front of a pre-teen boy, and we see a young woman sorting pills from a prescription bottle into a small cup for dispensing. On multiple occasions in the movie we see a young man smoking a cigarette.

DISCUSSION TOPICS - Foster care, parental abandonment, child abuse (both sexual and physical), coping, pregnancy, abortion, suicide, self-mutilation, revenge, drug abuse, psychological issues, rehab/half-way houses

MESSAGE - Foster care is very difficult.

Special Keywords: S5 - V5 - P9 - MPAAR

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A CAVEAT: We've gone through several editorial changes since we started covering films in 1992 and some of our early standards were not as stringent as they are now. We therefore need to revisit many older reviews, especially those written prior to 1998 or so; please keep this in mind if you're consulting a review from that period. While we plan to revisit and correct older reviews our resources are limited and it is a slow, time-consuming process.

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