Mass

Review of drama film, ‘Mass,’ about the aftermath of a deadly school shooting

January 30, 2022 Mario Bautista 184 views

Mass1MASS’ is the directorial debut of Fran Kranz, an actor best known for ‘The Cabin the Woods’. He also wrote the script of this serious drama that is definitely not for those who are just looking for mindless, escapist entertainment.

It’s about two sets of parents suffering from the tragic consequences of a shocking school shooting. They agree to meet after six years to discuss what happened to their sons and probably to get some kind of closure so they can move forward in their own lives.

Richard (Reed Birney) and Linda (Ann Dowd) are the parents of the shooter. Jay (Jason Isaacs) and Gail (Martha Plimpton) are the parents of one of the victims. Their meeting is initiated by their Episcopalian church in an effort to link the parents of the victim with those of the murderer.

As maybe expected in this kind of face-to-face set up, things get heated as old wounds are reopened and pent up resentment on the part of the victim’s parents rise to the surface. The film’s format is very simple and minimalistic. It all happens inside that claustrophobic room where the four parents meet.

You’d think this is a filmed play, but this is actually an original screenplay. It can also hold and very well be staged as a straight play. This reminds us of the film “We Need to Talk About Kevin” where Tilda Swinton gives a fine performance as the mother of the boy who kills his schoolmates with a bow and arrow, including his own father and sister.

“Mass” is a heartbreaking film about grief and despair that tackles the thorny subject of school shootings, which have become so rampant in America. It is harrowingly difficult to watch at times as it’s truly excruciating to watch these four parents recall the very raw and intense feelings of pain and anger that they all went through at the time of the killings and its aftermath.

The film is like a play unfolding at real time. The tension between the couples quickly becomes palpable, punctuated by abysmal silence and nuanced gestures, glares and glances that reveal each traumatized character’s emotions.

Through the exposition of all their anguish and outrage and heartache, no punches are pulled but it becomes clear that it is useless now to just point an accusing finger and blame anyone. Instead, they should all aim to restore some kind of order in their shattered lives after something unimaginably dreadful happened to all of them.

It falls on the shoulders of the four actors playing the major roles to guide us through all the feelings their characters are going through. Plimpton and Isaacs are both touching as the parents of the victim. They both long for release from the pain that have been crippling them since they lost their son tragically.

Dowd and Birney also effectively convey the unimaginable torture and torments of being the loving parents of a murderer who tried their best to support to their erring son but still failed and just cannot understand why he did what he did. It dawns on you that they are also victims.

But ultimately, the movie is about hope, acceptance and forgiveness. By the time they part ways, you can feel that somehow, they’ve experienced some catharsis and now feel lighter than before their meeting started.

Each member of the cast is given their own big moment and long aria to express what their respective characters are feeling. It is all very compelling but gut-wrenching viewing and definitely not for those who just enjoy watching superhero movies.

In the end, we realize that there are no bad guys here, just victims coming from opposite sides of the traumatic experience they all have gone through. Dowd’s final monologue about her son where she expresses her feelings of wanting to understand him more is a real tearjerker. As a whole, the film is not an easy watch as it can trigger emotionally unpleasant feelings but there’s no doubt it’s brilliantly interpreted by the four lead actors and it’s worth all the discomfort you’d feel while watching the film.

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