Mass: Fran Kranz’s Drama (Sundance 2021)

Mass: Sundance 2021


Courtesy of Sundance Film Festival

Jason Isaacs and Martha Plimpton in ‘Mass’

In Mass, Jason Isaacs, Martha Plimpton, Ann Dowd and Reed Birney play the respective parents of one of the victims and the perpetrator of a school shooting in a face-to-face encounter in Fran Kranz’s chamber drama.

Debuting writer-director Fran Kranz’s years as an actor show in the powerful performances he draws from his tight ensemble in Mass, a drama of searing intimacy that trades the political for the personal in its reflections on gun violence and mental health. With laser focus and unflinching emotional candor, the film approaches the seemingly unending horror of school shootings in America from the viewpoint of devastated parents on both sides of the tragedy, six years later. It’s a harrowing watch, but a cathartic one, with each of the four superb principal actors delivering scenes of wrenching release.

In addition to his career in film and television (he was part of the unofficial Joss Whedon repertory company in Dollhouse, The Cabin in the Woods and Much Ado About Nothing), Kranz has notched up solid theater credits, including the Mike Nichols-directed Broadway revival of Death of a Salesman led by Philip Seymour Hoffman and Andrew Garfield. His no-frills first feature could very easily have been a play, though Kranz applies minimal stylistic embellishments to give visual life to the predominantly single-setting, talk-driven piece.