Written by Alexander Reams
I still remember December 14, 2012. I had come home from school after a long day at school, then stayed after even more to wait on my mother (who was a teacher) to finish up her preparation for the next day. I remember the drive home, my mother was unusually emotional and I was thinking something had happened with my grandmother, who was suffering from Alzheimer’s and Dementia. When we arrived home I was told to not turn on the TV and wait for my parents. My parents went into a separate room and talked for what seemed like forever to 10-year old me. When they came out they sat me and my brother down and told us what had happened in Sandy Hook, Connecticut.
At the time I couldn’t even begin to comprehend. Until 5 years later when I experienced that same fear, confusion, anger when there was an incident at my high school and we didn’t know what was going on if we were in any danger, or when we would be able to get out. The worst of it seemed to be the time, the waiting, the not knowing if someone was going to knock down the door and commit this act of violence. Until the aftermath came, and that hit harder than the waiting. This aftermath is what Fran Kranz’s directorial debut Mass meditates on in great strength.
Going into the film I did not know who was who. I knew who was starring, in fact, that’s what piqued my interest in the film, specifically Jason Isaacs. Even after the film began it took 20 to 30 minutes to fully grasp who was the parents of the victim, and who was the parents of the shooter. Utilizing confusion to put tension into the film from the very first shot. First, we are introduced to Jason Isaacs’ Jay and Martha Plimpton’s Gail. Parked in front of a fence, with what looks like a high school football field behind them. Clearly cementing whose perspective the film is going to be told from.
Soon after, we are introduced to Reed Birney’s Richard and Ann Dowd’s Linda. The latter of whom immediately thrusts a gift to Gail and then annoyingly apologizes multiple times. After this awkward interaction we spend the rest of the film marinating in this room with these people. There has been a heavy amount of conversation around Ann Dowd’s performance and unfortunately I do not see why. She is overcooking her role for the entire runtime and becomes annoying very quickly. Reed Birney and Jason Isaacs however are the unsung heroes of the film. Their presence is always felt but is never overbearing.
Fran Kranz’s directorial debut is a quiet film with a loud presence. Not being a film that preaches gun control, but instead looks at the consequences of someone’s actions through their parents. The guilt that the parents feel, the anger, not at the person, but at that person’s parents. Kranz’s writing of all the characters is fantastic, his shot composition and use of lighting helps keep the mood light while the tone is heavy. Assembling a fantastic cast with Birney and Isaacs being the best of them. Hopefully come awards season we will see recognition for one or both of them, as they are more than worthy of the recognition. Quiet films can often be the most profound.
Mass is currently playing in limited theatrical release.