MASS: Gut wrenching and raw, MASS is a vital film with some of the best acting you’ll ever see
Updated: Jan 17, 2022
Directed by Fran Kranz
Stars: Jason Isaacs, Ann Dowd, Martha Plimpton and Reed Birney
I have been mentally bracing myself for the emotional gut punch that I long expected Mass to be. It’s safe to say all that preparation didn’t help me enough, as I was introduced to an emotional story that punched heavy and landed it’s message so purposefully that no matter how uncomfortable the conversations got- I was trapped, dying to see where it would go next. Mass tackles the subject of dealing with grief and forgiveness when one of the worst things a human can experience happens, the loss of their child. Only to flip the script and have us also see the point of view of the parents who have also lost their child, but whose grief and anguish were taken away due to their child being the shooter that caused all the turmoil. It’s this perspective and the challenge that comes with it, seeing both sides of the same tragedy, their own distinct pain, turmoil, and grief that has come from their side of this tragedy.
Years after a tragic shooting, the parents of both the victim and the perpetrator meet face-to-face
It’s some of the camera work and the distinct Church basement room location that really plays into the heaviness of Mass. The intimate tightness of the church walls feeling almost suffocating at moments when the conversation between both parties got heated. Yet the camera work proving how special it was, catered towards all four parents grief and emotions- letting us into their pain, but never overly flaunting it letting them have their moment of piece between each word or statement about their respective boys. It’s as if Kranz and Director of Photography Ryan Jackson-Healy invited us to be flies in the wall for this intimate emotional gathering, but respectfully cover our eyes when the two parties are at their most emotional. The camera doing a brilliant shot of conveying the togetherness of the pairs when they’re sharing moments, or the isolation that one experienced when they’re going through the worst thing imaginable and trying to gather their thoughts and emotion being shown with the powerful isolated shots of one of our four individual. The room may be small, yet Kranz and Jackson-Healy find various ways with the camera to effectively show the raw emotion of the gathering.
On a screenplay basis, Kranz tells a story that should’ve been told so long ago. It doesn’t use its platform to unintentionally idolize gun violence nor does he preachingly condemn those that commit it. Rather, he uses his script and his film to tell the story and look at the severity and the damage that is caused by the continuous school shootings and gun violence that American schools continue to see on a yearly basis. Rather than painting anyone as the villain or the monster, Kranz paints everyone in the room as the loser. The ones that lost everything on one fateful day, their boys, their privacy, their sense of normalcy, and everything in between that was lost on that day. Clear cutting and straight to the bone, we get to see the long standing effects of such a terrible day- a consequence that lives on in everyone whose family was involved‘s day to day life. Each characters grief and ways of coping our outlined so crystal clear, and Kranz makes no effort to paint one family as better than the other- rather we’re so uncomfortably intimate with their emotions that we get a full eyes glance at their thoughts, logics, flaws and everything in between in this short run time. On a performance level we get some of the best performances of this short decade, arguably the past decade as well. All four bring so much pain, so much emotion, and so much deep rooted trauma to their characters. Without saying a word one can understand the four characters identities and what they’re going through just off the pain and weight in their eyes. The two females especially Ann Dowd, and Martha Plimpton, bring this intensity this deep rooted love a mother has for their child even if they had done something wrong or have been gone for years- they’re both so polished and yet so broken in their performance. The lack of attention both have had this award season is an absolute travesty. Jason Isaacs is a naturally commanding presence, and whether his character is saying a lot or a little- one can’t help but have the air sucked out of your own lungs just off the sheer intensity that radiates from him as a person. While the level of frustration that Reed Birney’s character varies due to the lack of empathy that him and his wife have experienced because of their sons decision is some of the heaviest work, he feels all the guilt in the world and his sons doing weighs on his back more than he could ever explain yet the world will never understand that it was not his finger that pulled the trigger nor was it ever his decision, he is as much a victim as the rest of the families impacted.
Mass is a must see for everyone, these performances are heavy and the story is so important. You’ll feel as though you can’t squirm from the sheer closeness of the room and encounters, but by the time the credits are rolling you will be leaving with so many takeaways from Fran Kranz feature debut.