I don’t know how actors approach material like Fran Kranz’s Mass. The intimate chamber drama has been sustaining buzz since it debuted at Sundance at the beginning of 2021, and the four main characters have deserved every accolade they’ve received and every positive word made in their favor. As a woman who is still learning to balance her shame, grief, and responsibility, Ann Dowd imbues an already rich and beautiful script with grace, honesty, and decency.
There is a gentle timbre in Dowd’s voice that reminded me of the character of Linda, a mother who can’t make sense of how her teenage son destroyed the lives of many when he opened fire in a high school. Linda gave her son the love she had, and she gave him the space that she thought a teenage boy would’ve wanted. How do you push and pull as a parent? How do you guide them without suffocating them? These are some of the questions that Kranz’s screenplay posits, but the words live in the grey. Dowd can’t possibly judge Linda.
Performances like these come around once in a lifetime. We are so accustomed to getting all the answers we need from films and television shows, but it’s thrilling to see a performer of Dowd’s caliber dive so willingly into something other actors might be intimidated by. It’s as though she wants us to have these difficult conversations, because her heart can’t take it.
Mass is available to rent.