REVIEW: ‘Mass’ is an emotionally charged film with a great ensemble

While “Mass” is simply a film with four people in a room having a conversation, it has more tension than most of the other movies released in 2021.

“Mass” is about a meeting between two sets of parents whose children were involved in a school shooting. Jay (Jason Isaacs) and Gail (Martha Plimpton) are parents who lost their son in the incident.

Linda (Ann Dowd) and Richard (Reed Birney), meanwhile, are the parents of the shooter, who also died during the event. Over the course of the film, the two discuss what led to the school shooting and how it has impacted them.

This is a film that cuts really deep. As a nation, we Americans have become accustomed to seeing school shootings be reported regularly.

Television stations will show aerial coverage of the school, put maps showing where the incident happened, and stories will start to come out on who the shooter, as well as the victims, are. It’s an awful routine that doesn’t stop.

What “Mass” does is give an even more intimate look at the people impacted by one of these events. The despair it puts people in is on full display in this feature.

While “Mass” isn’t about a real tragedy, it reflects the suffering one of these situations can cause. As a result, it’s one of the most emotionally challenging watches of the last year.

Courtesy Bleecker Street.

There’s a single table in the room where the film is set, and as the movie progresses, everything is laid out on it. The parents of the shooter share their remorse and guilt, wishing they could have done something, anything, to prevent what happened.

At the same time, they’re parents who loved their child. People who had hopes and dreams for their kid’s future, and those hopes and dreams were shattered. The enormity of these factors weigh on them the whole time.

Meanwhile, Jay and Gail are in a struggle. They’re still grieving, and are deeply wounded by their loss. The two parents also have a lot of anger. There’s a sizable frustration that not enough was done to stop the shooting.

The film shows how Jay and Gail understand that anger and resentment against Linda and Richard won’t bring their child back, but they reasonably become agitated at times. It’s a fascinating push and pull, and one feels empathy for all sides throughout the picture.

Because of the simplicity of the setting and story, the success of “Mass” weighs heavily on the four lead performers. They were absolutely up to the task.


What the characters have gone through, and what they’re experiencing in this movie, is unimaginable. Both pairs of parents have lived through the absolute worst case scenario.

All four performers excel in portraying these characters honestly and respectfully. Nothing feels overly dramatic. There’s never a moment where the performances feel too polished for what these characters have experienced.
It’s masterful acting from each cast member.

“Mass” is limited somewhat by its approach. The stage play-like setting does feel constricting at times. Plus, there are a few side characters, such as a church manager who sets up the room where the families are set to meet, that feel excessive to the movie as a whole.

Still, this is a powerful debut by director Fran Kranz, who also wrote the script. It’s so effective at exploring what the characters are experiencing that it sticks with a viewer long after the movie is finished. 4.15 out of 5.


Author: Matthew Liedke

Journalist and film critic in Minnesota. Graduate of Rainy River College and Minnesota State University in Moorhead. Outside of movies I also enjoy sports, craft beers and the occasional video game.

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