Parents' Guide to

Mass

By Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 13+

Powerful, stage-like drama about impact of school shooting.

Movie PG-13 2021 110 minutes
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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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