The United States, more than any other country in the world, has a severe problem with mass shootings. When thoughts and prayers aren’t enough to convince Republicans to take steps toward stricter gun laws, you have people like Fran Kranz, who wrote and directed Mass. It’s a unique take on gun violence that doesn’t smear blood all over the screen or try to scare you into making changes. Instead, it’s a powerful drama that hits at the heart of gun violence, while making you think you’re watching something else entirely.
At the beginning of Mass, the audience is introduced to Judy (Breeda Wool) and Anthony (Kagen Albright). They both work for a church and they’re setting up a meeting. At first glance, you may think this is a religious film. There’s a church setting and the film is titled, “Mass” so it makes sense. It takes a good 20 minutes before keen audience members will start to realize the true meaning behind the title of the film.
Mass is a small film that tells a big story. There’s a very subtle build-up throughout the movie, but there’s no explosive ending, at least not in the way some might expect. Emotions run high as Gail (Martha Plimpton) and her husband Jay (Jason Isaacs) prepare themselves for a sit-down meeting with Linda (Ann Dowd) and her husband Richard (Reed Birney). The two families have one thing in common, their sons were victims of a mass shooting.
A vast majority of the film takes place within a single room of the church. All four people sit at a circular table and talk. With every sentence, the tension builds, but it’s a slow build. At first, you wonder who did what and why. Who is the victim? Are they all victims? A few hostile words are spoken. Is that the antagonist? Which family is good and which family is bad? All of these questions will run through your mind, but the answers aren’t so simple.
The performances in Mass are as intense as the subject matter of the film. This isn’t Jason Isaacs in another drama role. This is Jay, the emotional father of a mass shooting victim, and vocal advocate of stricter gun laws. This isn’t Ann Dowd playing one of many roles in her long-running film career. It’s Linda, the mother who loved her son and misses him dearly.
Mass brings the audience away from thoughts and prayers, and into the conversation. Fran Kranz has crafted a masterful lens that peers into the heart of school shootings in America. It’s not heavy-handed like so many films with similar context. The subject matter sneaks up on the audience before it grabs you and refuses to let go.
Instead of showing the incident at the heart of the film, the audience sees what happened through the eyes of the parents. The memories of their lost sons, and the emotion they feel toward one another and the victims tell a story that you don’t need to see visualized. It’s a much more powerful message to see the emotional aftermath for those directly involved, compared to seeing a blood-soaked schoolroom.
There are no thoughts and prayers in Mass. There is only the reality of the emotional fallout from a plague of mass shootings in American schools. Kranz showcases this with stellar performances from the four main cast members. It will most definitely have an impact on the way you think of these incidents. Knowing that, some will not want to watch the film, but it’s so effective at showing the pain without showing the incident that it should not be missed.
Synopsis: The aftermath of a violent tragedy that affects the lives of two couples in different ways.
Director: Fran Kranz
Writer: Fran Kranz
Stars: Jason Isaacs, Martha Plimpton, Ann Dowd, Reed Birney
Runtime: 1 Hour, 50 Minutes
Releases: October 8th, 2021 (USA)
Bryan Dawson has been writing professionally since the age of 13. He started his career as a video game writer and has since worked for Random House, Prima Games, DirecTV, IGN, AOL, the British Government, and various other organizations. For GNN, Bryan taps into his passion for movies.