Although much has been said about how effective last year’s Sundance Festival was with ‘CODA: The Sounds of Silence’, there really was another title that would have deserved the same or more recognition, being an independent bet that really shows a author’s look and has a spirit closer to the contest. is talking about ‘Mass’, the debut film by actor Fran Kranz, who dared to address a real social issue such as the possession of weapons in the United States and one of its most direct consequences: shootings in schools, institutes and universities.
The beginning is aseptic although tremendously revealing. A neighborhood parish lends its halls for various activities of associations. A young woman is in charge of showing it to the assistant and organizer, that she has been the one she has recommended the meeting of two married couples, parents of two teenagers who were involved in the shooting at a high school. Some are the parents of the victimwhile the others are those of the executioner. Kranz, who also wrote the script for his directorial debut, begins by introducing his characters slowly and civilly, taking advantage of the elements of parlor comedy to create an oppressive atmosphere that envelops his characters.
And parlor comedy is named, because ‘Mass’, given the way it’s run, reminiscent of titles like ‘The name’, ‘A wild god’ or ‘Sentimental’. However, it is only its structure and that feeling of confinement that its protagonists have, that they could well interpret an adaptation to the theater. What’s more, it’s surprising that ‘Mass’ hasn’t been brought to the stage first before the big screen. But, far from being a defect, Kranz makes these limitations his virtue, as Florian Zeller did by adapting his own work ‘The Father’ to the cinema.
A masterful cast in a sublime social drama
That theatrical essence allows the actors to look directly at their co-stars, in a film that is, above all, a constant dialogue between relatives of victims and perpetrators. Little by little, Kranz weaves these discussions, which grow in crescendo to end up exploding in a cluster of just claims, feelings of guilt and a desire for justice. Although the part affected, that of the married couple formed by Jay and Gail, the sublime Jason Isaacs and Martha Plimpton, perfectly conveys the tragedy they are experiencing for having lost their son in the shooting, it is the partner of the executioner’s son, played by Ann Dowd and Reed Birney, the one with the greatest complexity, since questions and doubts arise. What could they have done, as legal guardians, to prevent their offspring from shooting up? Did they really know their children?
Kranz lets reproaches, pain, mourning, grief, guilt flow in a dialectic that ends up being a cathartic journey towards self-redemption. It does so subtly, relying not only on a solid script, but on its four lead actors. All four are masterful, they convey that bitter feeling of having to face an uncomfortable situation, in a room where none of the four wants to be, but they know they should be. It is impossible to highlight one more than another. Jason Isaacs, Martha Plimpton, Ann Dowd and Reed Birney offer an acting masterclassin a feature film that takes advantage of its structure to create a social drama that enters squarely into a thorny but transversal issue in American society: the use of weapons.
‘Mass’ has the aroma of good independent cinema, the one that is finding it increasingly difficult to be visible among large studio productions and platform titles that end up in a mixed bag after the awards season. Kranz debuts in style with an apparently small feature film but with a big aftertaste, the kind that shows that there is still hope in the American indie scene, an industry that usually looks the other way regarding social issues. A title with a classic soul, one of those that aspires to transcend beyond the awards.
The best: Its four leading actors. Sublime, they are the ones who make the feature film stay in the retina.
Worst: There comes a point where Kranz gets tangled up and almost skids, but his actors manage to save the script.