This gem of a film lets us into the private world of a short-term foster care centre for at-risk teens, supervised by Grace (Brie Larson) and her boyfriend, Mason (John Gallagher Jr).
Grace finds refuge from the emotionally erratic work at the centre at home with her loving, good-natured partner. But the forthcoming departure of Marcus, a neglected boy who is about to turn 18, and the arrival of Jayden, a withdrawn, self-harming girl, forces her to face her own wounds.
The film’s central characters have a refreshingly natural and human approach to making contact. Grace and Mason meet the teenagers wherever and however they are, without imposing anything onto them. Due to their previous experiences of neglect and abuse, it seems that the young people are not ready to risk other relationships. Caretakers Grace and Mason find beautifully intimate but bearable ways to make contact with Marcus and Jayden, picking up on what each young person is drawn to and sensitively approaching them through those activities. This seems to allow the teenagers to express themselves more fully and genuinely.
I couldn’t help but see the parallels with the ‘conversations’ that are taking place in the therapy room. I often experience the client’s fear that I will react as others have done in their past, and this inhibits them in reaching out for intimacy. I have learnt not to expect trust to form overnight but to work sensitively at their pace, providing a consistency of which they have had little or no experience.
Grace and Mason often encounter rage as they attempt this, and they respond with real understanding and compassion, recognising that behind the fury lies a yearning for human contact. We then see how Grace is having to process her own hurt, being ‘held’ by her partner, and how this enables her to be more available to herself, as well as to others. As therapists too we need to be ‘held’, through personal therapeutic support and clinical supervision, in order to process our own hurts and become more available to ourselves and our clients.
As published in Therapy Today, also available here http://www.therapytoday.net/accessible.php