Fran Kranz’s Mass: Humanity and Dignity in Misfortune

5 min readNov 16, 2021
Jason Isaacs as ‘Jay’, Martha Plimpton as ‘Gail’, Reed Birney as ‘Richard’, and Ann Dowd as ‘Linda’ in Fran Kranz’s Mass. Courtesy of Bleecker Street. A Bleecker Street Release.

Fran Kranz’s feature filmmaking debut “Mass” is an intensely profound chamber-piece drama that is dramatically engaging and meaningful due to its intimate touch on tragedy and its honest portrayal of human behavior. The film itself is a deep, powerful, and authentic exploration of the complicated and often overlooked issue of gun violence in America as it is told through the four parent’s grief and loss. The film is one of its kind as it is a great piece of art which is also a great piece of social awareness. It has something positive to say and can promote positive change in society through its message. There is a lot to unpack and think about in this film. It is not easy to watch, but it is well worth it.

Driven by dialogue with dynamic range and sincerity, the audience is treated with the raw emotional turmoil of the characters. Kranz treats his characters with empathy and respect, and it resulted into the powerhouse performances of the film. The four leads portray their characters with depth and authenticity in a state of grace, and their natural sentiments lend their performances great meaning as they portray the human experience with compassion, empathy, and sincerity. Everyone is a standout and just takes the film by being the anchor of their own story. Their harrowing conversation takes you to the deepest of places and gives you a catharsis that you will never forget. Kranz has shown the world the power of actors in this film. I have never seen such a stellar performance from a cast so small and they are really incredible. I have never seen anyone go this deep in a film. The level of their performances throughout the film is what really shines through the narrative, as it becomes increasingly emotional and suspenseful in each passing moment.

Jason Isaacs as ‘Jay’ and Martha Plimpton as ‘Gail’ in Fran Kranz’s Mass. Courtesy of Bleecker Street. A Bleecker Street Release.

One of the many great things about Kranz’s film is how it focuses on simplicity in the script and the fact that it is so deeply resonant and authentic — that comes across really well. Kranz wrote a hauntingly brilliant screenplay grounded in restorative justice that didn’t exploit the tragedy as we know it. There are so many layers to the story, and it does not leave anything out because he wrote it for all of us to understand. He did a remarkable job in showing us the truth about the subject matter and the people that are affected through its stories. As we learn more about these characters who are so different from one another, we are able to relate to them in ways that are not so familiar. Through their stories, we can actually understand the reasons why people are so affected by the violent acts and the consequences that are brought by these tragedies. Having it focused on the two sets of parents and their separate grief makes it feel even more genuine than it already does. The audience gets a close-up look at the characters’ true, raw, and opposing emotions. In the film, there is no such thing as a wasted moment, the way the dialogue is written is so clear and realistic that you can see the story flow from moment to moment. It is extremely effective as it allows the audience to feel these emotions in a visceral way and it helps to bring the film closer to reality with a sense of immediacy.

The film was shot in a very real way with the actors playing their characters in a very authentic manner. The lighting, blocking, and cinematography is subtle yet powerful, as it is used to support the actors’ performances and it give off a very real sense of their feelings as they would in real life. It is a very real feeling as the audience can see and feel the intensity and emotion on the faces of the characters. It brings the audience closer as it almost feels like they are in the scene, transporting them into the actual setting of the movie. The stylistic change halfway through the film added a layer of realism and intimacy to the cinematic experience. Everything just felt so real and grounded even more in reality. This is also helped by the fact that it was shot chronologically in one location in just two weeks. Making a feature-length film that takes place in a single location is no easy task but Kranz, a first-time writer-director, accomplishes this feat with great style and confidence given his background in theater while still maintaining the authenticity of the story. All these achievements make the movie feel less like a movie and more like an existing story in need of some account and awareness.

Reed Birney as ‘Richard’ and Ann Dowd as ‘Linda’ in Fran Kranz’s Mass. Courtesy of Bleecker Street. A Bleecker Street Release.

At the end of the day, the film had brought healing to the characters and the audience which is something that only a deeply authentic and well-told story can do. The film addresses the issue of gun violence, but it also emphasizes the importance of hope and forgiveness. I can’t say one more thing about what a great film it is, but I was just touched beyond words. It is so powerful, and I had to write about it because it really moved me. I was literally in tears by the end of the film, and it left me feeling like I had been healed. I couldn’t even imagine a story more poignant and powerful than what Kranz has made. All things considered, “Mass” is a heartbreaking film that will surely leave you with many thoughts to mull over and it is going to stick in your mind for days and weeks to come. It’s a profound cinematic experience that is sure to make you think more about the issues it deals with. I’m absolutely thrilled to see what Kranz does next in the future! I hope this film gets the nominations it deserves in the awards season.

Go watch Mass in theaters!