Editor’s note: The views and opinions expressed in this review are solely those of Marlon Wallace and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of WBOC.
About a decade ago, Roman Polanski released God of Carnage (2011), an adaptation of a play that was about the parents of one child meeting with the parents of another child after the two children got into a physical altercation. This film is essentially the same thing, except the two children are older and the altercation wasn’t a fight. It was gun violence that resulted in both children dying, one by murder and the other suicide. This film is about all four people reckoning with what happened, trying to understand each other and hopefully healing.
Martha Plimpton (The Good Wife and Raising Hope) stars as Gail, the mother to one of the dead children. It’s not clear how long it’s been since her child died, but it’s been some time that they’ve been given the police report and medical report. At one point, someone mentions six years. However, the way everyone behaves, it could have easily been six months, given that it seems so fresh and raw for them.
Jason Isaacs (Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and The Patriot) co-stars as Jay, the husband to Gail. It’s ironic that he’s meeting the other parents in a church because he’s not a religious man. He says as much. He’s a man who goes more for the science. He even starts analyzing things like a psychologist or pathologist would. It could be because he’s currently in therapy and is desperate for answers where there might not be any.
Ann Dowd (The Handmaid’s Tale and The Leftovers) co-stars as Linda, the other mother. It’s not totally clear, but it seems as if she isn’t married to her husband anymore or isn’t living with him. She doesn’t appear as paralyzed as Gail. She engages more. She’s more talkative. She’s open to sharing, particularly when it comes to her son. Yet, she’s barely masking a fear and anxiety over this current interaction, as well as over the past interactions with her son.
Reed Birney (House of Cards and The Blacklist) also co-stars as Richard, the husband to Linda, or rather the ex-husband. At one point, he says that he flew into this place to have this meeting, but Linda indicates she was already living there. It’s never settled if where they are is where the deaths took place, or if it’s some other town. Nonetheless, Richard is the least emotional outwardly of all the parents. He mostly remains calm and collected throughout the interactions, never losing his composure. Obviously though, it’s a mask for what he’s really feeling, which is likely awkward, nervous, heartbroken and probably guilty.
Ever since Bowling for Columbine (2002), we’ve seen more and more mass shootings, especially among young people. It’s been among older adults as well. When a mass shooting does involve young people, many look to the parents and want to nitpick how that shooter was raised, again looking for answers. Written and directed by Fran Kranz, making his feature debut, this film acknowledges that these incidents and tragedies don’t spring out of nowhere. There are usually red flags or warning bells along the way. There are also people connected who often ignore or dismiss such flags and warnings. The film doesn’t put blame on the parents of the shooter in a way that feels judgmental, but the film is more of an analysis or critique of their parenting than anything else.
The performances here are all incredible. Each actor is given such breath and time to shine. Each really pulls you in. It’s definitely a tearjerker that will likely have people crying all throughout. There’s comedic-like tension to start things off, but it ends in great pathos.
Rated PG-13 for thematic content and brief strong language.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 51 mins.
In theaters, particularly Rehoboth Beach’s Cinema Art Theater.