There is no clever way to bundle this week’s featured films other than to say they each deserve your well-measured time and well-saved money. One will knock you back on your heels like a single malt (up, no ice please) Jameson whisky; the other will sneak up on you like Ocho Plata tequila.
The former is “Mass,” opening at The Flicks Friday, Oct. 22. The dictionary offers dozens of definitions associated with “mass,” ranging from ecclesiology to totality. But our nation’s heaviest hearts know all too well that “mass” is all too often aligned with indiscriminate crime against humanity, i.e. “mass shooting” or “mass murder.” Appropriately, “Mass,” the movie, is wedged somewhere between credence and crime. Yes, nearly all of the film takes place in a house of God; but at its centerpiece is a violent act.
“Tell me about your son,” says one mother (Martha Plimpton) sitting directly opposite another mother.
“What would you like to know?” the second mother (Ann Dowd) asks.
“Everything. I want to know everything.”
“Why do I want to know about your son? Because he killed mine.”
The power of “Mass” is visceral.I nearly forgot to breathe during this exchange. Written and directed by Fran Kranz (a stunning directorial debut), “Mass” leaves political divides over gun control outside the door of a church basement: and instead considers the devastation of a mass shooting with the intimacy that such an act demands. Two sets of parents face one another for the first time, absent any courtroom or mediators. And in this searing 100 minutes, they are only mothers and fathers of the shooter and the victim. The writing packs a punch, not unlike Edward Albee or David Rabe; but it also gives wide berth for heart-stirring pauses.
“The film is not about exactly what happened,” Kranz told me before his film opened in N.Y and L.A. to some of the best reviews of the year. “What it is about is forgiveness, reconciliation, healing, physical connection, and …” Kranz paused, taking a long breath. “You know, it’s about being face-to-face. Hearing their truth.”
Idaho filmgoers will want to take note that “Mass” is set inside Hailey’s Emmanuel Episcopal Church. Kranz said, yes, Emmanuel is a “beautiful red brick church …” but, “It also has this modesty. It has a humanity. It has an authenticity. I knew … well, I just knew I had to make the film there.”
There is much to say, and even more to think about “Mass.” Suffice to say, put it on your must-see list.
Now, to the latter: “Last Night in Soho,” something completely different that lands on the far end of cinema’s spectrum. It opens Friday, Oct. 29 at The Flicks; and while I’m a total weenie when it comes to the horror genre, “Last Night in Soho” dishes out some of the year’s most thrilling big screen moments.
The film disarmingly opens as if it was a fizzy rom-com. We meet the dispirited wannabe fashion designer Eloise (Thomasin McKenzie) in a contemporary (but drab) London. But Eloise readily slips into her daydreams, where she inhabits the life of starlet Sandie (Anya Taylor-Joy, perhaps the hottest actor on the planet after grabbing the Emmy for “The Queen’s Gambit”). And Sandie’s London is a dazzling, heart-pumping 1960s.
Now, this is traditionally where a syrupy rom-com dances about a bit. And for sure, “Last Night in Soho” blasts an oldies-but-goodies British invasion soundtrack featuring none other than Petula Clark:
“The lights are much brighter there …
You can forget all your troubles, forget all your cares…
And go downtown ... Things will be great when you’re downtown.”
But noooo! Those technicolor dreams of the ‘60s begin casting unwelcome shadows, and much of that darkness spills over into Eloise’s 2021 reality. Is there a way to change the past and save Sandie? Can Eloise solve a decades-old mystery before she too is put in danger? What follows is a neon-fueled nightmare — yes, there will be blood. Along for the hair-raising ride are Matt Smith (The Crown), Terence Stamp (The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert) and, in her final role, Diana Rigg (be still my heart).
Wow, wow, wow.