Sundance 2021: Mass

Jason Isaacs, Martha Plimpton, and Breeda Wool appear in Mass by Fran Kranz, an official selection of the Premieres section at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute. Photo by Ryan Jackson-Healy.

Mass is one of the most devastating films to premiere during the 2021 Sundance Film Festival but it has so much to say about grief.

There is so much to say here and I honestly do not know where to began.  Cinematically speaking, there’s a lot in this film that reminds me of American Son (2019).  Much of this is due to how the film is limited to just the one room.  To be fair, the Kerry Washington-starring American Son opens things up from the initial play.  This is an original film but writer-director Fran Kranz sets the entire film to a small-town church.  And yet, it’s one of the most powerful feature debuts we’ll see during this year’s Sundance and maybe even the year.  There are fun debuts like genre-bender First Date and then there are devastating and powerful debuts such as Mass.

The film features a very limited cast in the form of Richard (Reed Birney), Linda (Ann Dowd), Jay (Jason Isaacs), and Gail (Martha Plimpton).  The two couples are meeting at a small-town church years after Richard and Linda’s son tore their lives apart.  Are Jay and Gail ready to forgive their son for his actions?  You’ll just have to wait and see.

The film runs close to two hours.  Honesty, this is a film that is worth every minute of the run time.  But a fair warning before you go in: Mass is a very exhausting and brutal two hours as the two couples face off against each other.  For parents of school shooting victims, this will not be an easy watch.  Could it help in providing closure?  I honestly don’t know.  Parents are on their own journey when it comes to grief.

The root of Fran Kranz’s script dates back to the tragic Parkland shooting.  Though on some level, you can name any school shooting here be it Columbine or Heath High School.  The latter, which took place in 1997, is personal to me since my cousins attended the Paducah school.  If they went in a different direction, they might have been injured or killed.  Kranz, who became a new father when he started the process, uses his script to ask some very important questions.  How do families grieve after losing kids in school shootings?  What happens when they meet the parents of the shooter?  Put yourselves in their shoes by asking yourself as to how you would respond if you were a parent?  Nobody is going to have the same answer and everybody is on their own journey when grieving.

Politicians can offer thoughts and prayers all they want but thoughts and prayers are not enough.  The only real solution is to come up with meaningful gun control legislation.  I can go on and on but I don’t want to make this review too political.  Granted, all art is political, of course.

CAST:  Reed Birney, Ann Dowd, Jason Isaacs, and Martha Plimpton

Mass holds its world premiere during the 2021 Sundance Film Festival in the Premieres program.

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.