Review: 'Mass' (2022) Dir. Fran Kranz
A very real, very current situation is the core context of this drama, in a directoral debut by Fran Kranz, addressing such raw emotion as grief and acceptance in an honest and simple way...
Grieving parents Jay (Isaacs) and Gail (Plimpton) are dealing with losing their son six years on from a school shooting. After following court proceedings and mediations, they finally agree to meet the parents of the shooter.
Richard (Birney) and Linda (Dowd) arrive at a local church to meet with Jay and Gail, overseen by careworker Kendra (Michelle N. Carter), for the first time and to try and understand, explain and comprehend.
It is a difficult and fearful meeting between both sets of parents as they battle their own emotions to share their views, morals and justifications about the incident and their children to try and heal the open wounds...
A room set up for a meeting in a church, with a sweet but overbearing Breeda Wool making the arrangements for two families to meet, in private, to discuss and reflect on a tragedy that binds them. If you can go in blind, all we begin to understand is something devestating has occured and director / writer Fran Kranz makes it all so brilliantly natural and simple, that you are hooked from the very start of this journey.
Yang Hua Hu as editor works in tandem with Kranz to deliver a very serene and peaceful method to watch a very uncomfortable and cathatic release. There is one room and four people, and it is a very calming and neutral place within a building of faith to settle a very difficult meeting. There is nothing fast paced or frantic to build up the tension and natural emotion in terms of film-making; that is solid and natural that you can just focus on the four leads in their powerful roles.
It's only half-an-hour in with a very bold and blunt statement by the powerful Martha Plimpton that we learn that a school shooting has brought both families together.
Jason Isaacs delivers a stand-out performance as Jay, a man trying to comprehend his son's murder by keeping as calm and collected, but seeing it bubble and boil up and over with heart-breaking results. Martha Plimpton is wife Gail, equally grieving and delivering a more simmering performance as a mother who tries to find the humanity within it all, but struggles to accept reasons and justifications. Isaacs and Plimpton work so well together, taking it in turns naturally to try and be the stronger parent, but both cracking when it gets too much, but never losing their resolve and love for eachother.
On the other side of the table, the shooters' parents Reed Birney and Ann Dowd. Birney and Dowd have different material to work with opposite Isaacs and Plimpton, but work perfectly against them to try and put across their views, morals and values and how the pain resonates. Dowd especially is fighting to preserve her son's love, but must accept and see what demons were faced behind closed doors and if guilt can be placed on them.
It's hard to disagree with anyone, but it's hard to agree with just one side when the search for justification is presented in such a powerful way. You can belive each actor has embodied their role, and they are so natural in their performances that it feels improvised. And this just further is testament to the power of Kranz's writing.
At just under two hours, time is spent to establish the atmosphere and put us as the audience in a position that isn't the most comforting. From the opening scenes, through the an explosive mid-section to a somehow soothing and reflective finale, time is taken and nothing is rushed. There's no need to expand or detract from the situation at hand, and allows us to focus on the story and the characters and the brilliant group performances.
A bold and powerful watch that is fronted by four brilliant actors and a brilliant cast who present a very real tragedy facing American families. 'Mass' holds no punches, but offers a true sense of faith to help release the pain inside.
'Mass' is a co-production between 7 Eccles Street, Circa 1888 and 5B Productions