MASS – Review by Susan Granger

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Make no mistake. This is a difficult psychological drama to watch, as first-time writer/director Fran Kranz delves into the grief of two sets of parents whose children were involved in a high-school shooting. How do people cope with this kind of tragedy? And how do they ever move on?

Six years later, Jay (Jason Isaacs) and Gail (Martha Plimpton), whose son Evan was killed, have come to talk – face-to-face – with Richard (Reed Birney) and Linda (Ann Dowd), who not only lost their son Hayden but were blamed over the years by many of the families of those he massacred.

Wisely, Fran Kranz filmed their emotional encounter in chronological order, as the four sit awkwardly around a small table in an Episcopal church’s claustrophobic basement. There are no flashbacks or cutaways to the event being discussed.

During the uninterrupted conversation, questions abound as resentment leads to understanding. Eventually, each character experiences a personal epiphany in trying to make sense of a senseless tragedy.

In this actors’ showcase, Ann Dowd, who won an Emmy for her portrayal of fearsome Aunt Lydia on “The Handmaid’s Tale,” is particularly enthralling. Linda doesn’t ask for forgiveness or defend her son, confessing that, although he was loved: “I raised a murderer.”

After the shooting, Linda and Richard were alerted that something dreadful had happened but were kept apart during the police questioning. They are now divorced; Hayden’s actions destroyed their marriage. While guilt-riddled Linda is forthright and honest, Richard is more aloof and almost defiant.

As Jay, Jason Isaacs admits he wants Linda and Richard to feel “regret” or “pain.” Yet knowing, even if they do, it doesn’t give him or Gail any relief. Perpetuating the hatred only poisons, so it seems that acceptance and the power of forgiveness are the lessons here.

Not surprisingly, the catalyst for actor-turned-filmmaker Kranz’s grimly challenging script was the Parkland, Florida, school shooting.

On the Granger Gauge of 1 to 10, “Mass” is a poignant, subtle 7, evoking a genuine catharsis.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.