MASS – A Review by Cynthia Flores
Mass is an actor’s master class in the ensemble work of this craft. It is tight and compelling. Each lead plays off each other making it look as natural as breathing in and out. Not an easy feat considering the subject matter. However, writer/director Fran Kranz has created an intimate film that quickly sets the right tone for the situation with no overwrought hysterics or unnecessary preface. Instead, he carefully walks us into the deep end of the emotional pool for this story. That is an impressive feat considering this is the feature film debut for a man better known for acting on Tv and in films.
Mass tells the story of an important afternoon meeting between two sets of parents. Years after an unspeakable tragedy tore their lives apart, they agreed to talk privately. Gail Perry (Martha Plimpton) and her husband Jay (Jason Isaacs) have asked to speak to Linda (Ann Dowd) and her estranged husband Richard (Reed Birney). They meet in the neutral setting of a church music room in the town where everything happened. Judy (Breeda Wool) is the mousy-looking church secretary taking great pains to make the room comfortable and even provides snacks for this odd meeting. The setup is overseen by Kendra (Michelle N. Carter). She is the legal mediator that has helped facilitate and make the conference possible. She is there to lay out the ground rules and then leave the couples to talk openly in an attempt to move forward. What happens that afternoon in that room is an examination of their journey of grief, anger, and acceptance. By coming face-to-face with each other, the ones who have been left behind, they struggle together. As they grasp for if not understanding, then at least some kind of peace.
This film is emotionally brutal and brought to life by the brilliant cast of Reed Birney, Ann Dowd, Jason Isaacs, and Martha Plimpton. They imbue their characters with a sense of reality as they struggle with their human complexities and vulnerabilities.
When asked why he created such a dramatic storyline, writer/director Fran Kranz is quoted as saying:
“I wanted to explore themes of forgiveness, grief, loss, reconciliation, and ultimately the power of human connection,” Kranz went on to say, “How does forgiveness work? Is it the best answer to grief? Does it help its participants equally? Is there a selfish aspect to it, a transactional aspect? And is there a greater process in achieving reconciliation? I also wanted to explore grief and how it stays with you and doesn’t really ever leave, but just changes.”
I give Mass a 4.5-star rating. It’s a fantastic feature debut that’s worth the emotional ride you’ll experience once you sit down to watch it. The naturalistic approach of the film serves the gravity and sensitivity of the subject matter beautifully. I am sure it will be remembered come awards season.
Directed by: Fran Kranz
Written by: Fran Kranz
Selig Rating: 4.5 Stars
Running Time: 111min
Limited Theatrical Release: In Theaters only October 29nd
Starring: Jason Isaacs, Martha Plimpton, Ann Dowd, Reed Birney
The Selig Rating Scale:
5 Stars – Excellent movie, well worth the price.
4 Stars – Good movie
3 Stars – OK movie
2 Stars – No need to rush. Save it for a rainy day.
1 Star – Good that I saw it on the big screen but wish I hadn’t paid for it.