Mass, a 2021 film, is an original work written for the screen by its director, actor Fran Kranz. In his directorial debut Kranz has given the audience the feel of a stage play or live tv drama.
This particular genre of films are not new, rather in the 90s or in the early 2000s there were serious crowds for such films like 'Days of Wine and Roses' and 'Glengarry Glen Ross.'
If we look at the current trend in contemporary film making, then this short American drama would feel like an out-of-place one. Producers and directors these days seem to make movies that are more into the glaring spectacles rather than the story and scale of the plot.
The setting and the theme of the film is not new. Gun violence in the USA has always been a sensitive and one of the most controversial issues. Derived from the same vein, the plot of the film lies on years of the aftermath of a school shooting where the parents of the victim and the parents of the murderer meet and talk. With a powerhouse cast, intense acting and brilliant scripting of the film feels like watching a serious stage play.
Mass starrs Martha Plimpton and Jason Isaacs who played the parents of a teenage boy who was one of the students murdered in the school shooting.
Ann Dowd and Reed Birney are the parents of the mass-shooter characterised as an overtly depressed and disturbed young man. The couples agreed to sit at a table in the basement of a Church and talk about their kids and then try to analyze the depth of the violence that shattered these families.
Their conversation sometimes lean on to hopes of moving past depression, grief and anger, and sometimes through catharsis they express anguish while leaning to the state of acceptance. The dialogues are the strength of the film as they reveal how vulnerable parenthood can become when there is a troubled child in the house.
There are also subtle and clear messages towards the wrongs of the society, as systems are mostly part of the wider narrative like nationalism, community, race and gender rather than individual apathy and mental development.
One room-set drama films are fun to watch as some of the most successful films are, 12 Angry Men, Rear Window, Dial M for Murder, Dog Day Afternoon and The Man from Earth. Mass, though, has the same approach to tell the tale but it has a more flatline singular plot from its predecessors. Themes like parenting, bullying, grief and compassion and the lack of it are dominant in the film.
This movie delivers a wider range of serious emotions. It is hard to define them in words. The political problem of gun control in the USA though, the main theme of the movie but it has been kept in the background as the wider part of the film shows us the types of people who actually met in real life after a tragedy.
Watching this movie feels real amidst the VFX gold rush of Hollywood. Cinematically we get to see powerful dialogues delivered to real settings, in front of a real character, not to a green screen.
The director has made some memorable directorial choices with the shots. In somes scenes, the steady shots at the faces gives us powerful emotional feelings. The rough handheld shots are sometimes the embodiments of temperament of the context.
Mass is a difficult film to sit through not just because of the subject matter of the film rather than the way it represents reality. It is an honest dramatisation of how people cope with tragedy, pain and learn to go with life.