Mass follows two sets of parents – Gail (Martha Plimpton) and Jay (Jason Isaacs), and Linda (Ann Dowd) and Richard (Reed Birney) – years after a tragic event, who agree to have a conversation together to try and reach closure.
Fran Kranz makes his writing and directing debut with this film. And I must say, this film is simply expertly written. This film is simply four people talking in a room. There are no fancy camera movements, no action, and no different setting. But the conversation at hand is simply heart-wrenching, but incredibly compelling to watch.
These four main actors just bring their A-game to this film. They are not afraid to go to dark places and tackle difficult emotions. These parents are still grieving. They are rightfully angry, upset, defensive, guilty, and straight-up hurt. It is also really interesting to see how each parent’s approach to this conversation is.
With Richard, he is the level-headed one. You can see his regret and pain in brief glimpses, but he tries to emotionally distance himself while talking, speaking in a matter-of-fact way. His now ex-wife, Linda, is emotional and soft-spoken. She accepts the hurtful words thrown her way, but is also not afraid to speak up about her son, who was the perpetrator in this event.
On the other end, you have Jay who is angriest. He channels his hurt into activism. He wants justice and real change, to make sure something like this does not happen again. Lastly, Gail is the most reluctant of the four. She starts off the conversion a bit closed off, but she is also open-minded and is willing to listen and understand the other parent’s point of view.
I’m not sure you can watch the film without crying, I certainly could not contain myself. It is a heavy film. After the film was over, I felt this emotional weight on my chest that took a while to go away, and has now returned while I write this review.
I think the decision to have the shooter’s parents and the victim’s parents point of view was really eye-opening. In mass shootings, we can easily sympathize with the victims and the family of those victims as their lives were unjustly and unnecessarily taken. But I never really stopped and considered what the shooter’s parents may be going through. We as spectators are usually quick to point fingers and place blame onto them. But we may not realize that they themselves are most likely hurt and horrified. That they may blame themselves too.
I would strongly recommend renting Mass if you have the chance to do so. Mass is a film that stays with you and a film you look back upon in awe. It is expertly written and masterfully acted. It is undoubtedly a tough watch and an emotionally heavy film that may leave you devastated, but I think it is a necessary watch.
I give Mass an A.