Sundance Film Festival: ‘Mass’ Review

By: Amanda Guarragi

Mass is an extremely emotional and harrowing story about the loss of a child. In Fran Kranz’s directorial debut he shows the simplicity in capturing a high tension conversation. Four parents enter a room in a church basement to have a discussion. The discussion was about their children and how they have processed their own grief. Kranz observed each parent – Richard (Reed Birney), Linda (Ann Dowd), Jay (Jason Isaacs), and Gail (Martha Plimpton) – and brought out such fantastic performances from his cast. The beauty of this screenplay is that even though it was emotionally straining and heavy, he was able to keep the conversations grounded.

The screenplay was structured extremely well. The first act sets up the issue that needs to be discussed and it has an impressive line of questioning. Both sets of parents are there to settle their feelings with one another about their sons. It slowly builds because of the underlying story that the audience doesn’t seem to know yet. That is what made this film so interesting. So many things are running through your head as you’re watching this. When we find out about the tragedy that caused them so much pain, the tone and the ambience in the second half of the film changes.

The energy in the room is heightened and the line of questioning becomes an interrogation. It also highlights the fact that parents do not know their children. Parents have no idea what affects them or what goes on in their head. Hearing that the parents had no idea that their son was depressed but they noticed the signs and did nothing happens way too often. It was the acknowledgement in hindsight that will hopefully force parents to understand that this is an important issue. The aftermath of such a disastrous event left these parents completely wrecked with it being impossible to move on.

The tension created within those four walls was astounding. The performances from Ann Dowd, Jason Isaacs and Martha Plimpton will move you to tears. Mass is very well-written because it is a story that we’ve all heard many times but no one has ever translated it to screen as well as Fran Kranz. The emotional analysis of this side of the story, from the parents is cathartic and it shows that forgiveness is the most powerful thing. A beautiful debut from Fran Kranz!

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