Every year, more than a handful of nonfiction movies present topics on current-day issues. Most stick the landing, at the very least. But whether the stick with audiences much longer than just a few hours after their viewing, is a whole other story. This year’s movie that presents a current-day issue (or crisis) that we as a whole country face in such a powerful way is Mass. While there are no easy routes or clear resolutions by the end of its story, Mass presents its issues with force, veracity, and sincerity that are hard to ignore.
Mass tells the story of two couples who meet at a church building to try and close the doors on a tragedy involving each of their sons that occurred years earlier. The incident in question was a mass shooting at a school, where one couple’s child was the perpetrator while the other couple’s was one of the victims. Told mostly in one room throughout its runtime, Mass comes across like a stage play, putting you in a corner as you watch both couples explain their perspectives on what happened in the past. To say that Mass is the year’s most difficult watch is an understatement. It’s a tough pill to swallow and like me, you may never want to see it again. But it’s a must-watch, at least once, to see the perspectives of both couples who collectively make up four of the year’s best performances in a single movie.
Reed Birney (House of Cards), Ann Dowd (The Leftovers), Martha Plimpton (The Goonies), and Jason Isaacs (The Patriot) are all familiar, veteran actors we’ve seen in numerous, big budget projects in film and television. Not only do each of the four give arguably career-best performances, but it’s hard to pick one of the four as the “best” because they all are equally excellent. Each performance brings a different level of strength and grace to the screen, and if the Academy voted today, all four performances would be worthy of nominations and awards in the supporting categories.
Mass is a punishing experience, and like I said, you once you’ve seen it, you may never want to watch it again. Its subject matter is difficult, but it’s worth your time even if it forces you to go through a few tissues. While agonizing and, God forbid, something we would never want to experience in our lives, director Fran Kranz offers a glimmer of hope by film’s end with grace playing a bigger role than expected, while bringing this sorrowful feature home. While it’s not a happy ending, it will leave you thinking about which side of such an event is the most tragic for the survivors.