LIFE Movie Review: Mass (2021) – Underrated Gem Deserving of Acclaim

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Mass (2021) Movie Review
Photo: Mass (2021) / Bleecker Street
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The 2022 Academy Awards are rapidly approaching. On March 27th, the 94th Academy Awards ceremony will take place live from Los Angeles, California and a flurry of films, directors, actors, actresses and more will be rightfully etched into cinematic history. This year, my personal objective is to view each nominated title prior to the event – so that, for once, my view on which film should have won can at least be backed up by my having seen its competitors. The early favorite for the “Best Picture” Award currently appears to be the Kenneth Branagh hit “Belfast” which was released on January 21st in the United Kingdom (and November 12th, 2021, in the United States).

Belfast is an excellent movie and fully deserving of Academy acclaim, therefore there will be little to no surprise (and disgruntlement) from myself should it win. However, there is one film which is widely expected to go under the radar – an excellent, tragic movie which will bring most viewers to tears. Of course, we are referring to the recently released movie “Mass“, which was a directorial debut for Fran Kranz, who also wrote and produced the film. This was a terrific debut for Kranz and it is already clear that the director is capable of excellence – his future career as a director certainly being one worth following.

LIFE Movie Review: Mass (2021) – Underrated Gem Deserving of Acclaim

A Tale of Grief

Mass perhaps most benefits from its conceptional simplicity. The film, which had a budget of just $300,000, mostly takes place in one single room and possesses a cast of less than ten actors. Of these actors, the film largely focuses on four actors playing four grieving parents. One set of parents – Jay & Gail Perry – is played by Jason Isaacs and Martha Plimpton, who both deliver tremendous performances in the role of grieving parents of their deceased son, who was a victim of a school shooting attack. The parents of the shooter – Richard & Linda – are played by Reed Birney and the exceptional Ann Dowd, who delivers a masterful performance in her role of grieving mother emotionally conflicted by the loss of her son and the manner in which he, as a mass school shooter turned suicide victim, exited the world.

The film begins with the revelation that the two sets of parents, who had remained in contact following the tragic incident, had agreed to meet together at the local Church. It is here where they can share with each other their feelings; their thoughts and how they have each dealt with the life-changing circumstances which arose on that dreadful day. Each individual parent gets considerable time to “wow” the audience with their own stunning performance. Jay (Isaacs) is naturally grieving the loss of his; he begins as well-together, composed and willing to listen to the parents opposite. Gradually, however, he begins to lose his cool – clearly unable to keep up the charade that he has recovered from the loss of his son because, of course, to do so would be impossible for any parent. His wife, Gail (Plimpton), is initially more aggressive in her words but goes in the opposite direction – softening to the plight of the opposing parents. Together, they present a very real portrayal of grieving parents and the rapidly changing flurry of emotions which might occur in such devastating circumstances. Richard (Birney) is a more complex character – often oozing in suave sophistication and composure but you can sense that, underneath his hardened demeanor and clear aura of toxic masculinity, he is hurting just as considerably as the other three parents. Linda (Dowd) gives the arguable performance of the four (though each are exceptional in their roles) and her words towards the end of the film are especially heartbreaking – if any of the four actors are to be nominated for an Academy Award, Ann Dowd is the one you might expect to be in the running though, again, any of the actors could be just as deserving.

A Film You Must See For Yourself

Mass is an absolute must-watch film that you must see for yourself. Indeed, it takes place in one room and yes, the entire premise is centered around two sets of parents talking for 90+ minutes. But this is what makes the film so effective – it is one graced in a realism rarely found in film; the devastation it portrays being so tear-inducing and tragic that you forget you are watching a fictional movie. With the sheer number of school shootings which take place per year, particularly in the United States, where the film is set, its telling of the tales which follow on from these shootings – tales largely unheard, as news stations move on to another shooting elsewhere – is one which absolutely must be heard. The trauma that these parents live with is something no parent must ever have to. For someone’s son or daughter to be taken away so suddenly and so young is a pain no parent should endure.

One of the standouts of the film, also, is when, very briefly, the discussion between the two sets of parents becomes political – with Jay and Richard quickly quelling any political discussion with a hard “that’s not what this is about”. In diffusing this discussion so quick and powerfully, the movie makes clear that this is not a political movie – nor should political shooting incidents be so loudly and commonly politicized by both sides of the political fence when all the parents want to do is grieve. We have seen this happen time and time again, wit the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting of 2012 being a memorable example of the toxicity which arises from school shootings which make national, and international, news.

Mass is a unique, excellent story with much to teach its audience and whereas it might just go under the radar of the Academy Awards, both for the schedule of its release and some of the more well known competition this year, its success on the film festival circuit and its overwhelmingly positive online reviews are enough to suggest that this is a must-watch movie deserving of any and all acclaim it receives.

More From LWOS Life

Make sure to stay tuned to LWOS Life for more on this and other stories from around the world of entertainment, culture and more, as they develop. You can always count on LWOS Life to be on top of the major news in the world of entertainment; whilst also providing you with editorials on everything from beer to movie reviews.

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