In the run-up to the awards season, many different films vie for our attention and the honour of being declared Best Picture – be it at the Oscars, the BAFTAs, the SAGs or elsewhere. With three months still to go, choosing a front runner is a risky business. You’ve heard the buzz, seen the posters, watched the trailers and placed your bets on the likely winners and losers. And then a film comes out of nowhere and blows you away.
Twenty-something Grace (Brie Larson) is a supervisor in a halfway house for teenagers who are stuck in foster care, alongside her boyfriend Mason (John Gallagher Jr) and new colleague Nate (Rami Malek). With her days taken up handling the highs and lows of teenage behaviour on a daily basis – from tantrums and truancy to jokes about farting – Grace’s own past is pushed to the back of her mind, until the arrival of kindred spirit Jayden (Kaitlyn Dever) forces her face her demons.
Taking on a subject like the foster care system is not an easy ask. The risk of being either seriously depressing or cheesily redemptive is huge. And yet mercifully this film is neither. Directed flawlessly by Destin Cretton, when the lows come you are ready for them – although Dever’s delivery of a fairytale about an octopus and a shark is possibly one of the most moving scenes I have ever witnessed – and there are just enough high points that you can leave the cinema with your faith in humanity at least partly restored. Sugar-dusted rather than sugar-coated, perhaps.
The cast of relative unknowns hasn’t a weak link – so much so that at times it is hard to believe that this is not real life – allowing Larson the freedom to tell Grace’s story unhindered, aided by a word-perfect script and minimal setting.
It is impossible to do this film justice in a review. All I can say is: Go and watch it. Go now…
96 mins | 15 | November 1 2013
Watched: November 6 2013, Cineworld Chelsea, Screen 4