SUNDANCE Movie Review: Mass
by Julie Perez
There is no easy way to tell this story and Writer/Director Fran Kranz leaves no emotion off the table when discussing a subject that is often avoided.
You will leave MASS feeling emotionally-devastated.
The premise of the film feels overwhelming immediately. You quickly find out that Richard (Reed Birney) and Linda’s (Ann Dowd) son was responsible for a school shooting and one of his victims was Jay (Jason Isaacs) and Gail’s (Martha Plimpton) son. The two sets of parents have come together years after the tragedy in an attempt to move forward. Fran Kranz wrote a screenplay that feels poetic, it encompasses the anger, the grief and the guilt that we often forget to acknowledge when discussing gun violence in America. MASS is not an easy film to watch, I actually had to stop it multiple times, the weight of the subject-matter accompanied by the masterful performances felt too heavy on my heart. Because yes, Kranz’s direction is superb and his screenplay is exquisite but it’s his on-screen talent that brings MASS to new levels.
Jason Isaacs plays every single note of the supportive husband perfectly, which makes the moments when his emotions get the best of him, even more impactful. Martha Plimpton will make your heart ache as soon as you see her on your screen. She wears her grief in a way that will force a response out of the audience, her performance is absolutely devastating. Even in the middle of the emotionally-tense conversations did I find myself looking at her to ensure she was okay. The restraint of Reed Birney amidst an emotionally-charged room will leave you in awe. Though don’t you dare confuse his restraint for lack of emotion, his feelings are palpable throughout the film and his restraint is only a testament to his grandeur. Ann Dowd gives us a magnificent portrayal of a complicated woman, she will shake your emotions to their core and will force you to look at the ugly truth. Dowd shows her emotions with every breath she takes and watching her perform feels like an immense privilege. I will be surprised and quite appalled if this film doesn’t eventually get some acting nominations.
Though the film attempts to restrain itself from centering the conversation around gun laws and political talking points, there is no escaping the reality of the United States. There is no way to walk away from this film without feeling anger towards the lack of change from our government. Yes this film is a difficult watch but it’s a necessary one. We cannot allow more High School students to become inspirational and motivational speakers in an attempt to enact change in our Country. We must do better and this film just serves as another reminder of that.
There is no happy ending here. You will not get a satisfying answer as to why these events occurred. This film is just a reminder of the complexities of the human condition, do not look at MASS to tell an inspiring story about people that persevered. This movie makes no attempt to console you. Fran Kranz tells the untold story of the people who have given years away to their grief and he does it in a beautifully-magnetic way. MASS is proof of the exquisite storytelling that is out there, if we allow ourselves to ignore the constant remakes in Hollywood, we give way to discover life-altering works of art.