Starring: Jason Isaacs, Ann Dowd, Reed Birney, and Martha Plimpton
Director: Fran Kranz
Every once in a while, you come across a film that doesn't need any bells or whistles, just actors giving raw, heartfelt performances. That's exactly what Mass is. A perfect marriage of actors and director, Fran Kranz lays this film out perfectly and gets exceptional performances from his cast. All four leads bring something different to the table, but Jason Isaacs and Ann Dowd are sublime. They should definitely be remembered come awards season. This film will stick with you for a long time, as it's heart-wrenching and uncomfortable, but it's also one of the year's best.
Though it's not the easiest movie to get through, Mass is an emotional gut-punch that makes watching it worthwhile. Thanks in large part to writer-director Fran Kranz's incredible script, the film's singular setting allows its exploration of grief amongst a sensitive subject to hit hard and never feel drawn out. Helping drive that exploration home are the four central actors (key among them, Ann Dowd) giving raw and devastating performances that are among the very best I've seen in a while. Mass hit me to my core and will stick with me for the foreseeable future. Bring tissues.
Apart from one slightly jarring change of aspect ratio towards the middle, the authenticity of Mass is so absolute that one may forget its fictional nature. So nuanced is Fran Kranz's writing and so sensitive are the performances that the film holds one's attention more tightly than most recent thrillers. To write either side of the conversation at the film's center is difficult; to write both without slipping into melodrama or hyperbole is, frankly, a herculean accomplishment worthy of acclaim. All 110 minutes of Kranz's film arrive with weight and remain with meaning. This is certainly not one to miss.
As an acting showcase, it doesn’t get much better than Mass. It’s a simple film that plays like a small stage play, featuring four actors in a tiny room having a conversation, but the conversation being had is anything but simple. It’s a hard and uncomfortable exploration of the heavy grief that gets buried under “thoughts and prayers” sentiments. It also provides an interesting perspective by giving equal time to the parents on both sides of a mass shooting. It’s not at all an easy watch, but it is a powerful one that is driven by stripped-down, yet award-worthy, performances.