(director: Michael Shannon; screenwriter: Brett Neveu, based on his play; cinematographer: Andrew Wheeler; editor: Mike Selemon; music: Jonathan Mastro; cast: Judy Greer (Janice), Alexander Skarsgard (Ron), Paul Sparks (Steve Calhan), Alison Pill (Lisa), Tracy Letts (Bill Verne), Annie Parisse (Stephanie), Kate Arrington (Jill), Nation Sage Henrikson (Eric), Jennifer Engstrom (Laura Gates), Lawrence Grimm (Jack); Runtime: 119; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Sarah Green, Karl Hartman, Jina Panebianco; Caliwood Pictures; 2023)

“Depressing but well-executed timely drama about a high school shooting.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Michael Shannon in his directing debut is the actor-turned-director of this depressing
but well-executed timely drama about a high school shooting. It’s an adaptation of a stage play written after the Columbine school shooting by Brett Neveu in 2002. The tour de force performance by Judy Greer elevates the film above other similar-themed movies like Mass.

 A shell-shocked mother, Janice Larue  (Judy Greer), who sells guns at the local hardware store, and the despondent father (Alexander Skarsgard), “letting Jesus into his heart” irritates his deeper thinking wife. She knows more than that is needed to stop all the mass shootings.

When Janice and Ron finally meet the mothers of the three dead boys (Jennifer Engstrom, Annie Parisse and Kate Arrington)  there was too much anger on both sides to make any headway in resolving things.

Though some scenarios are contrived, the thought-provoking film is based on reality and is sincere in asking us to determine how to move on from all the gun violence in a gun-happy contemporary America. It also asks why religion is increasingly losing touch with dealing with the nation’s problems, and therefore asks who can heal the wounded nation.

It played at the Tribeca Film Festival.