Mass (Fran Kranz, 2021, USA)

Mass is the debut feature of writer-director Fran Kranz. Kranz began his career as an actor, appearing in such films as Cabin in the Woods. His debut as a writer-director, which premiered at Sundance in 2021, has been released to much critical acclaim. Despite its topical subject matter, Mass feels like a film from a bygone era. It is in the long tradition of films that are essentially filmed plays, such as 12 Angry Men, seeing as how virtually the entire action of the film takes place in a single room amongst four actors - Reed Birney, Ann Dowd, Jason Isaacs, and Martha Plimpton.

Reed Birney and Ann Dowd play one set of parents - the one whose son committed a school massacre that ended in his suicide in the library. Jason Isaacs and Martha Plimpton play another set of parents - the parents of a boy who was killed by Birney and Dowd's son. While Fran Kranz compiled the script of the film from multiple resources, it is clear that the Columbine High School massacre was a major source of inspiration. The parents' Reed Birney and Ann Dowd even bear a distinct resemblance to the parents of the real-life Eric Harris.

Kranz wisely steers clear of overt political discussions around gun safety and gun violence - probably for the disappointment of some viewers - and instead opts to explore the possibility that a parent may do everything correctly and normally, and still have a terrible outcome with their child. The Isaacs and Plimpton characters desperately want to hear something terrible about Birney and Dowd's child, but they are never able to divulge anything particularly significant that would have predicted his behavior. Given its confines, Mass feels a bit overstuffed, but it is worth a watch.



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