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Sundance: Mass

Years after their tragic loss, Jay (Jason Isaacs) and Gail (Martha Plimpton) are ready to confront the parents of their young son’s killer. Richard (Reed Birney) and Linda (Ann Dowd) agree to meet the two in a private room at an Episcopalian church. Everything has been set up so they can have a safe space to confront the situation head on. What Jay and Gail want is to learn more about the villain they have come to paint as true evil in their minds. They’re frustrated when Richard and Linda don’t have ready answers for their probing questions. As their conversation unfolds, we learn more about the circumstances of the tragedy, the history of the troubled boy turned killer and how both couples have handled their very different types of mourning.

Mass is Fran Kranz’ writing and directorial debut. It’s a gripping drama that takes on the difficult job of exploring both sides of this kind of tragedy which unfortunately is now a regular part of American society. The film locks its audience in a confined space so they can fully experience the tension as it builds. The majority of the action happens in the one room. And while the dialogue driven drama works to some extent I wish flashback scenes were incorporated. Mass would make for a great stage play but it underutilized film as a visual medium. With that said, I believeĀ  we’ll see more films like this in the future as quarantine, lockdowns and social distancing will put pressure on filmmakers to tell stories with small casts.

Mass premiered at the virtual 2021 Sundance Film Festival.

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