Mass is a drama film written and directed by debutant filmmaker Fran Kranz. A film relying heavily on dialogue rather than action, Mass is about a planned meeting and discussion between two couples whose lives have been torn apart by a terrible tragedy because of a school shooting six years ago. Dealing with an unusual subject and addressing things that are still not usually spoken of openly, the film is a brilliant watch with a profound effect on the mind.
The film begins with a woman at a church preparing a room for a small private meeting to take place in. Although she has heard about the people who would be coming, she is unable to understand the intensity of the meeting and almost over-prepares with a lot of food and coffee. Soon, she is joined by another woman, Kendra, who is understood to be a representative of an organization that is making the meeting happen. Two of the four central characters of the film are introduced next, as they enter the church with a lot of nervous determination. Jay and Gail are parents of a young boy, Evan, who was violently killed in a school shooting six years ago.
They are joined by Richard and Linda, parents of the disturbed and depressed boy, Hayden, who had shot dead ten pupils, Evan amongst them, in his school before killing himself in that same school shooting six years ago. Having met during legal matters after the incident, the two couples sit down with each other after all this time to talk about their losses, their still evident grief, and the anger and frustrations of their intertwined lives. While “Mass” begins with awkward greetings and casual conversations about everyday life, the conversation of these individuals quickly devolves into discussions about society, mental health, grief, and the very human tendency to cope with loss without being able to get over it.
At the core of the film’s effectiveness are its characters. While four of them are actually present in front of the camera, their discussions about their respective sons make them two kinds of silent characters. It is indeed Evan and Hayden because of whom the tragic meeting really takes place, and the parents try to talk about their understanding of their respective sons in order to help ease their respective grief and guilt.
Hayden’s character is naturally spoken more of, his attempts to fit in with friends and companions, due to bullying. Despite his academic performance not getting affected much, he was growing up to be a terribly lonely and depressed young boy with sometimes violent outbursts. His parents’ inability to understand him took him further towards loneliness and, ultimately, with access to guns and ammunition, Hayden ended up taking eleven lives, the last being his own.
It is, however, the parent characters that make the film such a compelling watch. Jay and Gail still find it treacherously difficult to forget their son’s helpless demise and carry on with their lives normally. While the immediate anger and even hatred that they felt towards Hayden and his parents has withered away after six long years, a strong urge to understand what led to him committing such a crime and whether his parents could have helped prevent it in any way drives them on. Richard and Linda, on the other hand, are still yet to recover from the shock and guilt of their son’s doing such a thing and continue to live on with internal as well as external (through hate mails that they receive) blame, miserably coping with it. Although they, especially Richard, often seem too defensive and protective of their actions, perceptions, and rights, it is hard to feel negatively about them, as they have to deal with not just guilt but also grief, having lost, after all, their young son.
Their conversation brings up very important facets of modern life, actions, and consequences. The fact that a school shooting, something that the USA is increasingly having to suffer with, is such a multi-faceted affair, making it tremendously difficult to put blame on anyone or two or three things, is profoundly brought out in the film. Along with it, the importance and seriousness of modern-day parenting, not just by the parents inside the domestic household, but also by the school, and the need for human compassion, in general, is also felt. Mass becomes a terrifying watch at times, looking at grieving parents whose lives are all but destroyed because of actions whose consequences were not even fully understood, but it leaves one with such a heavy heart and a thoughtful mind by the end, as the four parents only have each other to look at, to try and move towards acceptance, forgiveness and an overall sense of catharsis.
Mass is a 2021 Drama Film written and directed by Fran Kranz.