The couples at the heart of the bedroom drama “Mass” have a lot in common. Each couple has two children, one alive and one dead. And they share the same tragedy. Linda and Richard’s son Hayden killed Gail and Jay’s son Evan in a school shooting before turning his gun on him.
Years have passed, and now the couples have gathered in the back room of a church to discuss their children – the one who was taken and the one who took. Gail (Martha Plimpton) and Jay (Jason Isaacs) initiated this reunion, and their goal is to uncover the facts that led to the murder of their child. Gail and Jay ask questions, and Linda (Ann Dowd) and Richard (Reed Birney) respond, recalling the attempts to seek psychological help for their son and the decisions that did not prevent his violence.
The writer and director Fran Kranz stages this congregation like a play. The actors are seated opposite each other in a single room, and camera work is minimal, alternating close-ups. Dialogue limits the amount of knowledge the audience receives about how or why the central horror took place. This measured approach allows the feelings that sparkle on the faces of the film’s veteran actors to register not only as markers of wonderful acting – although there is plenty to spare – but as events having the power to propel introspective intrigue.
The film lacks the punch of live theater, the thrill or discomfort of watching people show their feelings in real time. But like cinema, it demonstrates the effectiveness of simplicity. A well-written screenplay and exemplary cast can still produce a movie to watch.
Rated PG-13 for references to violence. Duration: 1 hour 50 minutes. In theaters.