“Aftermath of a violent tragedy that affects the lives of two couples in different ways.”

Director: Fran Kranz
Writers: Fran Kranz
Staring: Jason Isaacs, Martha Plimpton, Ann Dowd, Reed Birney
Release Date: October 15, 2021

Mass is heavy. It is somber and real. Mass does not shy away from the emotions that comes with a mass school shooting. If you are planning on an easy-going viewing experience, pick something. But if you are looking for an emotional drama with quality acting and ultra-realistic dialogue, then tune into Mass.

Jay (Jason Isaacs) and Gail (Martha Plimpton) are parents of a child that was killed in a tragic school shooting. They are meeting at a neutral place with Linda (Ann Dowd) and Richard (Reed Birney), the parents of the child that shot up the school and then turned the gun on himself. Nearly all of Mass takes place in one room at one table. It is a face-to-face conversation, and not an easy one. The pair of parents delve into different heart-wrenching topics, relive their memories of the day, and pose questions about what they can do now.

In this time in American society, Mass should hit people different. This is not going to be a referendum or essay on school shootings or gun control. All I will say is that there is a good chance now that you know someone who has been affected by a shooting in some way, shape, or form. Speaking personally, Sandy Hook school shooting happened about 15 minutes away from where I grew up. I was in college when it happened, and my my sisters where in high school the town over. Was not a fun time when that happened.

Back to Mass.

How this screenplay written by Fran Kranz was not based off a play script is baffling to me. When I watched Mass, all I could think about was how this story was made to be told on a stage with actors performing to a live, crying audience. I can imagine an actor reading this screenplay and salivating at the chance to chew up the drama that is between every line on the page.

Jason Issacs plays Jay, the father of the murdered child. At the start of Mass, he is the measured voice in his marriage compared to the emotional Gail. During the course of the conversation, Jay has his mood rise and it is he who begins to raise his voice and stand on his soap box. He calls himself out on it at times, but often it his wife who calms him down by pointing out how he is losing the point.

Martha Plimpton plays Gail, and in my mind she gives the best performance of the four main actors. She portrays both pensiveness and aggressiveness in seeking answers from the parents in front of her. Gail is hesitant to open up, but once she does she has a ton of pent up emotion. The interrogation mindset slips out on her tongue a few times, and that is only natural in the moment they are in. Gail is the character that gets the most out of the discussion.

The most closed mind individual is Richard. The father of the school shooter is in a full suit and tie, by far the most dressed up of the bunch. Compared to his wife, Richard is more defensive of his child. The arguments that Richard gets in with Jay are ferocious. When it results in Jay dictating the police reports to Richard and company, that is very, very hard to see. Reed Birney might have the hardest job of all the actors because he has the least amount of sympathy in the story. He still garners some, don’t get it twisted;, but it is less than his wife and the adults across the table.

Ann Dowd plays the part of Linda. As a character, she is the most eccentric of the quartet. She brings home made flowers, has the quirkiest stories and also prompts the most questions. When Jay and Gail get frustrated, it is Linda who asks the questions to try and get the answers they are seeking. She crosses more lines than her husband. The conversations that draw the most tears are between Linda and Gail.

Mass got a bit of international award attentions last year. Ann Dowd got the most praise as a supporting actress, and Fran Kranz earned some praise for his writing skills. All well earned and well deserved. Do not be surprised if Mass is coming to a stage near you. It is built for a national audience with what is happening in this country today. You will feel sadness for both families watching them unfold their inner sadness and grief. Mass deserves a mass audience. It is not just a good movie, but also an important one.

STANKO RATING:B+ (4.0/5 Stars)

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