This was a gutpunch.

I wasn’t expecting that. I had no idea about Mass when I saw it on Vudu for rental. I recognized the title during my research for potential Oscar winners. In fact, I remembered it from seeing Ann Dowd in consideration for Best Actress. I remembered Dowd’s name from the Live Different Stroke/Facts of Life special where she was Mrs. Garrett.

This wasn’t anything like that.

This was a story of two families who had been impacted a few years before from a school shooting. Jay (Jason Isaacs) and Gail (Martha Plimpton) were the parents of one of the victims while Linda (Ann Dowd) and Richard (Reed Birney) were the parents of the shooter. They were brought together as a way to try and find a way that they could move on.

This was as uncomfortable as you could imagine it would be. The pain, the grief, the anger and resentment all still raw like an exposed nerve.

Both couples started on eggshells, as you would expect. Before the meeting had been arranged, the psychologists had prepped them to not be judgmental or to interrogate each other. The couples tried desperately to cling to those rules of meeting, but they were not having much success because they needed more.

As it moved along, things started to become more confrontational, more tense, and these actors’ performances really started to rip your heart out.

Speaking of the performances, these four actors are just amazing. With a completely dialogue/conversation driven film, it depends 100% on the actors to carry the load and to keep the engagement of the audience and these four actors do so brilliantly.

As a teacher, this topic is one that hits home very hard and this was a difficult film to watch. It was painful, but so worth it. The idea of the shooter and a victim’s parents meeting is filled with dramatic tension and scenes.

Mass was compelling and tough. Seek it out if you want to search through your emotions.

4.5 stars

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