Movie Review: MASS Starring Martha Plimpton, Jason Isaacs, Reed Birney, Ann Dowd
Confronting the uncomfortable, four actors deliver tour de force performances in this emotionally charged chamber piece.
Dealing with the loss of a child is unfathomable for those fortunate enough to never experience such tragedy. For horrific events like the far-too-common school shootings in the US, an infinite amount of questions would run through one’s head. How could this have been prevented? What were the warning signs? Why didn’t someone do more?
In MASS, the directorial debut of writer-director Fran Kranz, two sets of parents come together to try and make some sort of sense of what happened to their children. Jay (Jason Isaacs) and Gail (Martha Plimpton) are the father and mother of one of the victims of a mass shooting; Richard (Reed Birney) and Linda (Ann Dowd) are the parents of the perpetrator. They’ve come together at the behest of Gail’s therapist, in hopes of working through the pain, anger, grief, blame – in hopes of finding some sort of understanding and eventual closure.
Taking place primarily in one room of an Episcopalian church, the story could have easily been presented as a play. Beautifully written, giving each character a distinct voice and plenty of time for all four of the leads to shine, the subject matter is handled with great care. Never does the story come across as exploitative, or insensitive. Rather, the film explores a unique view of the grief that comes from all angles through thoughtfully written dialogue and delivered by four terrific performances.
The pain seen in Issacs’ eyes feels raw and heavy, as the character struggles through his commitment to remain calm – and not be interrogating or vindictive. The agony felt through Plimpton’s visceral performance is palpable, gut-wrenching stuff. Dowd wears Linda’s suffering differently, masked by more extroverted niceties – but again, the internal turmoil can not be fully hidden by the eyes. Birney’s portrayal is more subdued, yet meticulously well-crafted as Richard comes to terms with his guilt and blame.
After years of acting, Kranz has delivered a remarkably moving script – accentuated by thoughtful camerawork, and captivating performances. While not an easy watch, MASS rewards the audience with a cathartic, thought-provoking journey of understanding, forgiveness, compassion, and healing.
In theatres Friday, October 22.