'Mass': Heavy But Essential To See
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'Mass': Heavy But Essential To See

The best acting you'll witness in 2021

A photo of four people sitting around a table. They're two couples, with one couple sitting next to each other on one side, and the other couple is sitting far away on the other side of the table. A lone tissue box sits in between them.
Credit: Bleecker Street

Most of "Mass" takes place in one pale, bare room. This quiet space within an Episcopalian church is where two sets of parents meet to air out grievances, express remorse and attempt to heal six years after losing their sons from a school shooting. But there's a catch: one couple lost an innocent child, the other couple lost a child who was the shooter.

In his directorial debut, writer and director Fran Kranz peels back the curtain for viewers as they listen into what's basically an immensely private therapy session.

Jason Isaacs, Martha Plimpton, Reed Birney and Ann Dowd star with each actor pulling their weight to bring phenomenal performances with none of them outshining the rest. Their passion, grief and despair is something to behold, and they concisely deliver scenes for dramatic effect. Some scenes stick with audiences for days after seeing the movie, and it likely addresses questions the world has after similar tragedies occur in real life.

MASS | Official Trailer | Bleecker Street www.youtube.com

In one memorable early scene, the parents of the shooter, Richard and Linda, find themselves in a succinct verbal match. Richard calmly defends the decision to move into a neighborhood, trying to make positive spins on the situation, while Linda is more honest and thinks the move was a bad idea for their son. Both actors bounce off each other so well, that it's riveting to see.

And the parents of the other victim, Jay and Gail, also have amazing chemistry as they rely on each other for strength during intense moments. As they recall a fond memory of their son playing football, it's simply heart-breaking.

Empty scenes

Despite the plethora of wins in this film, there are a handful of empty landscape scenes that don't make sense. When Richard and Linda first arrive at the church, audiences see tree leaves that partially block their view of the couple entering the building. Likely, it's to represent how they've hidden their lives since the tragedy. But it might've been done a little differently. However most of the cinematography is wonderful, especially when the camera simply pans over the empty table space that serves as a chasm between the two families.

A hard pill to swallow

The film clocks in just under two hours, but the time flies as Kranz expertly lays out breadcrumbs in the script to keep viewers hungry for more. Watch carefully because each detail matters from an actor's small flinch, to cryptic dialogue.

Everyone should be talking about "Mass." It deserves equal attention if not more from the upcoming awards season. What's unfortunate about this film is that it could've been released anytime in the last 10 years, and it would be considered relevant to today. And that's what makes this film a must-see on everyone's watchlist.

Score: 9/10

Watch "Mass" in select theaters now; wide release is planned for Friday, October 29.

Follow the reporter on Twitter at @s_incorvaia. Listen to her podcast, Plot Devices, with fellow Odyssey Online contributors on Spotify and Apple Podcasts.

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