A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Amid difficult subject matter and complicated feelings, the movie promotes communication, compassion, and empathy. Encourages people to talk openly about their losses and to try to heal by understanding and forgiving one another.
Positive Role Models
Both sets of parents clearly loved their sons unconditionally. They listen to one another, even when it's difficult, and they want to know more about their respective families and upbringings. Jay has dedicated himself to advocacy, and Gail seeks to move forward without making the shooting the focus of their lives.
The four main characters are White and seem to be middle class. One Black supporting character is briefly shown in the beginning and end. All characters are familiar with Christianity (given the setting) but don't necessarily identify as Christians.
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Violence & Scariness
Detailed conversations about a student's bombing/shooting in a high school. Two fathers discuss the specifics of how various students died/were killed (including how their parents later saw the blood and the taped outlines of victims' bodies). A parent recalls a couple of times when their child's behavior was disturbing.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Married couple embraces out of comfort, not romance.
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One use of "f--king."
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Products & Purchases
Discussion of Call of Duty and how violent it is.
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Mass is a play-like drama about the parents of a school-shooting perpetrator coming together with the parents of one of his victims for a reconciliation meeting. It ends up with all four parents (played by award-winning actors Jason Isaacs, Martha Plimpton, Ann Dowd, and Reed Birney) making heartfelt, heartbreaking declarations and recollections. Expect frequent references to the mass shooting in both general and detailed ways -- like when the shooter's father describes every victim's fatal wounds, or when the other father talks about how hard his son tried to live before being shot in the neck. There's one use of the word "f--king." Families with teens who watch together will be able to discuss their thoughts about gun violence and laws, school shootings, mental health, and adolescent pscyhopathy. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
Fran Kranz's directorial debut is a single-set, stage-like showcase of two pairs of grieving parents having an unimaginably difficult conversation; the four stars all give riveting performances. Much more effective than the adaptation The Dinner (which also highlighted two sets of parents having a fraught conversation), Mass is at times reminiscent of the tense, unforgettable conversation between Bobby Sands (Michael Fassbender) and Father Moran (Liam Cunningham) in Hunger, when there's more to the subtext than you see, and it's clear that the characters are having much more than an ordinary conversation. Unlike Hunger, Mass takes place almost completely in the church meeting room where both sets of parents attempt to have a healing discussion about the school shooting that ended up with both sons dead, one at the hands of the other. The only other people in the movie beyond the four main characters are two slightly nervous church employees setting up the room and Kendra (Michelle N. Carter), a no-nonsense woman who's arranging the scope and logistics of the meeting.
Watching the two sets of parents (it's implied, although never said explicitly, that Richard and Linda are no longer together) discuss their dead sons is powerful and poignant. Kranz, who wrote the script, isn't interested in the politics of school shootings (which are hinted at but never explored) like gun control (Richard and Linda never owned firearms; their son stole them from his best friend), but in the feelings and the motivation behind the act. Gail wants Richard and Linda to pinpoint exactly when their son started to have homicidal thoughts. Linda wants Gail to allow her to discuss memories of her son, because despite what he did, she still loves him and remembers special times with her little boy. Richard is alternately aloof and straightforward, and Jay, it's revealed, wonders whether anyone or anything could stop a school shooting if the shooter is a psychopath. The movie doesn't offer any easy answers, instead immersing audiences in the visceral pain the parents are experiencing. It's a thought-provoking and brilliantly acted film that feels like a stage play turned into a movie.
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Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.
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