Mass review – impeccably acted school shooter reckoning

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The parents of a teen shooter meet the parents of a boy he shot in Fran Kranz’s intelligent, sensitive drama with an unexpected ending

Mass is a wonderfully acted, if claustrophobic, ordeal of emotional pain. Perhaps against the odds, it achieves in its final moments a breakthrough of understanding and acceptance – and moves beyond its rather theatrically contrived confrontation, which may have been inspired by Yasmina Reza’s play God of Carnage, filmed by Roman Polanski in 2011. But it’s impossible not to be affected by the sincerity of this debut from actor-turned-director Fran Kranz, whose film shows that the subject of school shootings and their aftermath can be treated without the ironised horror of, say, Lionel Shriver’s We Need to Talk About Kevin.

The scene is a church in Idaho that has evidently offered its premises as the venue – a safe space, perhaps – for a healing encounter between the parents of a boy killed six years previously in a school shooting and the parents of the boy who killed him. (Franz allows us to register that there happens to be a slightly truculent young man volunteering at the church, who might resemble both of the boys.) Quite aside from the grief and despair, there is bad feeling about announcements made at the time through lawyers and the media, and now everyone needs closure.

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