Friday, October 29, 2021

Mass - Review

There are no flashes of panic, no sounds of gunfire nor sights of victims fallen, but make no mistake, Mass is born from violence. It’s the story of tragedy, just many years down the line, and how the immense and irreparable pain permeates and seeps into the lives of all those connected to the event. It’s not flashy in any way shape or form, but it sure does pack an emotional haymaker into its simple setup.

Two couples meet for a painful and raw conversation in the aftermath of a violent tragedy.

Director and writer Fran Kranz has delivered a raw, tightly woven chamber drama that is sure to render anyone overwrought with various emotions right along with the characters. Everything from the setting to the dialogue to even the pace, feels like a play, crafted for the low-key, naturalistic setting of a stage, that would be destined to clean up at the Tony Awards. 

The minimalistic camera work and lack of any deviation from the four adults at the center of this story make this film effective, even if it does dip a toe here or there into the trappings of melodrama. It’s a conversation that effectively could be happening between any number of people in this country over the last 22 years, but the audience is the fly on the wall for this one, feeling the grueling experience of grief and pain along with them. And of this suits the story and the true showcase of the film, the performances. 

All four members of the cast deliver empathy and pain through each muted word and resounding monologue. Gail, played by Martha Plimpton, is practically paralyzed by her own extended mourning, while Jay, played by Jason Isaac, is filled with an anger that can only be contained for so long before it all comes spilling out. Opposite them, Ann Dowd tries her best to provide comfort to all the others as Linda, the mother of the perpetrator of his heinous act, and Reed Birney, as the father Richard, is equal parts regret and resentment that he even is in this situation. 

These four people talk and ruminate over all the things that could’ve been different, that could’ve changed the outcome for all of them. The topics that have been discussed for decades now - gun access, video games, mental health - are all brought up and mentioned as factors in one individual’s choice to kill his classmates, but none of that blame helps these people heal, and changing any one of them may or may not have helped, no one could ever know. But that room under a church is a place that so many people have been and so many fear to be, grieving over a tragedy that everyone wishes and hopes they would be able to stop if it happened to them.

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