Review: Mass ★★★★★ – London Film Festival

4 mins read

You know how you sometimes read a drama in the comments on Facebook without ever engaging in it? You’re not a participant of it, which is what makes it so enthralling. You just want to sit back, make some popcorn, and enjoy the show. You watch people argue for your own entertainment. That it exactly what watching Mass feels like.

Written and directed by Fran Kranz in his directorial debut, Mass stars Martha Plimpton, Ann Dowd, Jason Isaacs, and Reed Birney, who are all, undoubtedly, the reasons for the film’s phenomenal success. No other movie I have seen this year left such an impression on me, and all the credit goes to the cast’s outstanding performances.

I cried when they cried, was angry when they were, felt awkward along will them. The actors truly carried the film on their shoulders.

As the first scene started the movie seemed detached, almost clinical. The awkward tension was palpable, making the viewer both uncomfortable and intrigued. Frankly, I expected to watch some “cinematic masterpiece” rated 100% on Rotten Tomatoes that every critic would love, and I would either fall asleep on or spend reading fanfiction on my phone. I don’t know how they did that, but I just couldn’t stop watching. And my fanfics had to wait.

Credit: Bleecker Street Media LLC

The story is compelling; while the plot is simple, it’s the mystery that makes is so thrilling. Particular points of the story are revealed as the film progresses. The viewer’s guessing game – trying to predict what the narrative is actually saying; who to side with; who is right in the argument, without knowing what the argument is about – might be the very reason why blinking becomes hard as you don’t want to miss a single nanosecond.

Cinematography is also quite clinical – for a lack of a better adjective. There are hardly any props, the walls are bare, and the main colour scheme makes you think of your grandmother’s living room. But that only helps focusing on the story, which is again the most important element of the motion picture. It’s not about stunning sunsets, beautiful score or a huge plot twist. It’s all basically just one scene, in the same plain room with bare walls, a table and four chairs. It’s about the dialogue, the feelings and life. It’s the most authentic film I’ve ever seen.

Another thing I couldn’t help but notice was the camera movement. At first when the scenes are “detached and clinical”, as I so eloquently described them before, the camera features unmoving, short shots. Later, as the plot picks up and the characters start getting more and more into their argument, the camera movement changes accordingly. It becomes shakier when the parents start losing their composure and their mental states worsen. The attention to details is remarkable.

Ever since watching this film I haven’t been able to stop wondering – what does the title refer to? The entire story takes place in a church, so a mass in a religious sense was my initial guess. However, after realising the plot was about a mass murder, I now ponder – coincidence, or pure genius?

All in all, I must say – Mass is a job well done. Magnificent in its simplicity and superior in scriptwriting. For a directional debut, I’d say I will watch Fran Kranz’s career with great interest.

Feature Image Credit: Bleecker Street Media LLC

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Film, media & journalism student

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