Movie Review: Mass (2021)

Now on demand within Prime Video.

What appears at first akin to a one-act play committed to camera is actually the towering and improbable master class of cinematic acting atop a strong 2021 of dramatic ensembles. Unflinching and unforgettable, debut writer/director Fran Kranz’s Mass (B+) creates a tinderbox of drama out of a quartet of adults coming to grips with the defining tragedy of their lives. It’s almost a horror movie leveraging just performances and dialogue as the charged objects. The plot is simply this: Six years after a high school shooting, a teenage victim’s parents played by Martha Plimpton and Jason Isaacs hold a private meeting with the gunman classmate’s parents portrayed by Ann Dowd and Reed Birney. The subject is difficult and the acting as raw as it gets. Franz leverages the intimacy of a cheery church meeting room as his veritable black box backdrop and sparse blocking to depict the actors congregating, drifting and coming to terms with which character among the living – if any – is to blame. The film’s sparse and mesmerizing technique underscores the importance of civil discourse and empathy, and all four actors are superb in their complex roles. Plimpton and Dowd shine in particular as protective mothers in perpetual grief, both with late-breaking stunners of soliloquies. This is a movie to be fastidiously examined as characters seeking comfort, clarity or catharsis approach a way forward unexpectedly.

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