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This Week in Theatres: Brie Larson Grows Up, and Six More

Short Term 12

Grace (Brie Larson) tries to break through to Marcus (Keith Stanfield) in Dustin Cretton's piercing new drama Short Term 12.

One review and six previews of this weekend's upcoming flicks.

"Wow. She's all grown up." Was the first thing a friend of mine said when Brie Larson appeared onscreen in Dustin Cretton's new drama Short Term 12. Far from the cynical teen resisting her mother's efforts to "micromanage her daughter's vagina" in the Showtime hit United States of Tara, the woman soothing, commanding, and ultimately identifying with the troubled teens of the titular care facility is a full-grown adult. 

Short Term 12 is an expansion of Cretton's 2008 short film of the same name, which won a spate of awards in 2008, including Sundance's honors for best short film, based on two years he spent at a transitional facility for troubled teens–a time he called "the most impactful two years of my life" when we spoke on the phone. It shows: The interactions never feel less than actual, and real emotion bleeds from the performances of everyone from the stars on down to Keith Stanfield, the unknown actor who plays the magnetic, introspective Marcus, a sensitive teen frightened at the prospect of "graduating" the Short Term and facing life on his own. Short Term 12 is part of the SF Film Society's recent winning streak (which includes Beasts of the Southern Wild and Fruitvale Station). It was completed with the help of a large post-production grant from the local institution, an assist Cretton credits as "a huge stamp of approval and encouragement to our team."

For Larson, who prepared for the role by shadowing a 26-year veteran of the teen care system, the demands of the role were largely practical, which is a mindset shared by her character, Grace. "I had to focus on getting a stronger voice. That was my concern–when I had to speak sternly–to make sure the kids would actually listen to it," she told me. Larson also took voice lessons and practiced exuding "an adult strength that I'd never really explored before." It's hard to watch a film like Short Term 12 and not think about the future. Alongside co-star John Gallagher Jr. (floppy-haired Jim in Aaron Sorkin's "The Newsroom"), who is also nearly tone-perfect, Larson turns in a quietly powerful performance reminiscent of Ryan Gosling in Half Nelson, the film that ultimately fueled his ascent to superstar status. Rotten Tomatoes: 98%. AMC Metreon.

ALSO PLAYING:

Instructions Not Included: Mexican comedy hitmaker Eugenio Derbez (Jack & Jill) re-introduces himself to stateside audiences in this light with a lively, Latin riff on the Peter-Pan-out-of-Neverland conceit, which he also directs. Rotten Tomatoes: No Rating. AMC Metreon. 

The Grandmaster: Modern icon Wong Kar-wai (In the Mood for Love) returns to China to deliver a transcendent combination of ethereal martial arts and meditative introspection in this tale wound on the axis of Bruce Lee's masterpiece, Ip Man. Rotten Tomatoes: 74%. 4-Star Theater.

Getaway:  Selena Gomez is a computer hacker. Ethan Hawke is the new Nicolas Cage. Expect to be hearing about his diamond-studded dinosaur skull collection and albino Cobra-skin boots on TMZ soon. Rotten Tomatoes: 0%. AMC Metreon.

Thérèse: Ever-radiant Audrey Tautou (Amélie) stars as a young woman in a marriage of convenience whose discontent takes a darker turn in this high-strung, SFIFF-screened drama set in the French countryside in the 1920s. Rotten Tomatoes: 58%. Opera Plaza. 

The Patience Stone: Afgan exile Atiq Rahimi's feminist parable is as gorgeously executed as its Iranian lead Golshifteh Farahani and contains a bit of magic, but sometimes falters under its own weight. Rotten Tomatoes: 74%. Opera Plaza. 

The Umbrellas of Cherbourg: PFA's Jacques Demy retrospective finishes up Saturday with a screening of his best-known work, the Catherine Deneuve film The Young Girls of Rochefort, on Friday. Rotten Tomatoes 98%. PFA, Berkeley. Friday and Saturday only.