Why? -  Is The Question

Stars: Ann Dowd, Martha Plimpton, Jason Isaacs, Reed Bimey, Brenda Wool, Kagen Albright and Michelle N. Carter
Director/Scriptwriter: Fran Kranz
Composer: Darren Morze
Cinematography: Ryan Jackson-Healy
Bleeker Street
Rating: PG 13 with strong emotions
Running Length: 105 Minutes 

There are several definitions for the word “mass.” It could be a dense object either physical (tumor) or a concrete object or part of the liturgy of Christian churches.   Fran Kranz (“Cabin In The Woods”) is the director of  "Mass." It is about what happens between two families who come to meet and follows the 4-part structure of the Christian Mass. There is a beginning (Introduction), scripture readings (knowledge of happenings), a coming together for serious discussion (sermon) and an ending, which in the Christian church is communion for forgiveness. Here, instead of clergy, there is a moderator. Only four main actors in this film, Ann Dowd (“The Handmaid’s Tale”), Martha Plimpton (“Generation” TV), Reed Bimey (“Home Before Dark”) and Jason Isaacs (television’s “Discovery.”)  

The film is done within the confines of an Episcopal church, and the movie begins with the moderator making sure the meeting room is OK before the two couples come.  First, we meet Gail (Martha Plimpton) and her husband, Jay (Jason Isaacs) who are apprehensive to enter the building, especially Gail, but Jay persuades her. Inside, the moderator has a calming effect, and soon come the second couple, Linda (Ann Dowd) and Richard (Reed Bimey.) The moderator leaves and “the Mass” begins. Gradually, we learn why the couples are here. One couple, especially, Gail and Jay, wanted to meet, after several years, Linda and Richard, whose son shot and killed many school mates in a shooting rampage. One killed was Gail and Jay’s son. There - it is, laid on the table and from here on, as we go into the “sermon” part of the Mass, we learn truths that were not available before. The word “Blame” is on the table, but not spoken. It lingers like an odor, in the air.  As the film moves on, questions, that were kept internally come to the forefront and the answers are forthright.  

What would you do in this situation? At first, the audience may think this was an auto accident, perhaps, careless driving or drunk driving.  Two boys rough-housing and one fell. But no, this concerns guns and violence and it creeps into the film as you get to know the four people there. Oh, no…not again. Then come the questions, gun availability, the growth of the child and why. 

The audience may not be familiar with the actors, except for Jason Isaacs, and as the film progresses, the words “Oscar Nominations” start trickling through your mind. Interesting that this film doesn’t have main actors, but could call the four actors “Supporting.” Ann Down, as Linda, does a great deal of the talking in the last half of the film, aided by her rather distant husband, while Gail and Jay are the listeners seeking…what? Facial expressions are wonderfully done by all, This is the acting part, as four people sit around a table and talk. Only head, shoulders, and arms are visible. With gun control in the news every day, this film quietly addresses the situation.   

Copyright 2021 Marie Asner