Short Term 12 Poster

Now that it’s scooped up a trio of film festival prizes — the Grand Jury and Audience awards at SXSW in March and an Audience Award at the L.A. Film Festival this week — Short Term 12 looks poised for a shot at an even bigger, unofficial title when it comes out Aug. 23: sleeper hit.

The indie dramedy follows the lives of Grace (21 Jump Street‘s Brie Larson) and Mason (The Newsroom‘s John Gallagher Jr.), two counselors at a foster care facility for troubled teenagers. The mix of roiling emotions and dark humor they find there comes straight from the real-life experiences of first-time writer-director Destin Cretton, who worked at a similar facility before going to film school. Once there, he made a brief prototype of Short Term 12 as his thesis film in 2009. Four years later, his full-length version is a festival darling, which seems to have caught the filmmaker a little off guard. “It’s weird for me to have something so personal be accepted by so many people,” says Cretton, who cites Hoop Dreams and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest as inspirations. “Awards are wonderful, but it’s really just a reflection of the wonderful conversations that we’ve been getting after the screenings.”

Check out the movie’s new poster — an EW exclusive — below.

Credit: Lewis Jacobs/NBC

Reactions at festival screenings have included big laughs and no small amount of tears — including some from Cretton himself. “I still cry when I watch some of these scenes,” he says. “I think people are surprised by how universal the things that these characters are dealing with are. Even though the story is taking place inside the walls of a world that seems unfamiliar, it really is just a family.”

Watch the trailer for Short Term 12 here, and check back for more coverage soon.

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Short Term 12
  • Movie
  • 96 minutes