Showcasing the lives of counselors at a halfway house for troubled teens, Short Term 12 has emerged as one the year’s must-see films. The trouble comes with having limited opportunities to see this before the end-of-the-year must-sees show up. So make a point of it. Brie Larson (Community) is outstanding in her breakout lead role. She’s more than a counselor; she’s been in these kids’ shoes herself, and director Destin Daniel Cretton gives Larson’s character a lot of layers to reveal, which works slowly and beautifully. Short Term 12 is no doubt a small film with largely unrecognizable faces and, for many, unfamiliar circumstances. These kids have it hard and the people who care for them—the only people who do—carry a huge daily burden. Cretton moves the pieces expertly and carefully, which is gratifying and surprising for his debut film.