Director: Fran Kanz
Starring: Reed Birney, Ann Dowd, Jason Isaacs, Martha Plimpton, Breeda Wool
Run Time: 110 mins
Mass is the directorial debut of actor Franz Kanz and follows two couples, who meet to discuss a tragedy theirs sons were involved in. Jay and Gail Perry (Jason Isaacs and Martha Plimpton) are the couple in grief and are looking for closure and answers from Richard and Linda (Reed Birney and Hereditary‘s Ann Dowd). The film is mostly set in a meeting room in an Idahoan Episcopal church, with Judy (Breeda Wool) its parishioner. In Mass’ opening, we see Judy setting up the meeting space and discussing with a co-ordinator on the suitability of the room and its decoration.
Mass is an interesting drama that explores a harrowing subject and Kanz does an excellent job of withholding what the event the couples are discussing for a considerable amount of time. The performances from the central quartet are all excellent – both Plimpton and Dowd are emotional wrecks whereas Isaacs and Birney are mostly more reserved and tighter-lipped, although also let their emotions out of the bag in key moments. The script by Kanz is efficient, with some crescendoes of emotional eruptions at key points. Ryan Jackson-Healy’s cinematography doesn’t allow the characters anywhere to hide, the angelic white and empty decor painting an empty canvas for the characters to project.
Unfortunately, the emotional impact of Mass is somewhat undone by its opening, which is unnecessary and heavy-handed. It goes on for far too long and it’s an artificial device to elicit care for the quartet before they enter the fray. Mass would have benefitted from jumping straight into the first couple arriving at the venue and the film would be tigher-paced and allow audiences to try and piece together what exactly is happening.
As it stands, Mass is an assured debut from Kanz and it deals with a difficult subject matter in an unflinching way with some committed performances. If its opening was removed, it would be excellent. I’d be interested to see what project Kanz works on next as he undeniably has potential behind the screen.