The Fallout REVIEW – Authentic & Devastating

A powerful film about the invisible fallout of school shootings.

The Fallout
The Fallout

With the release of Scream  this year, Jenna Ortega has been having quite the moment, and The Fallout pretty much cements what a huge star she’s going to be.

The Fallout is powerful the way Mass was, but in a wholly different way. The Fallout turns the spotlight to the survivors of a school shooting, and the PTSD that grips them in the wake of such an event. It’s a fallout that we don’t see, because we’re gripped with the statistics of loss and the politics that surrounds gun violence.

Ortega plays Vada, who starts her school day with cake pops and coffee, only to end it while standing on a toilet bowl as the girl (Mia, played by Maddie Ziegler) she just met pukes into it. Everyone has a different response to tragedy. Vada’s best friend Nick (Will Ropp) pulls it together and becomes the face of the students protesting gun violence. While he’s doing interviews on the news, Vada’s drifting. School has become a frightening place, she’s angry all the time, and the only person who seems to understand is Mia.

While her parents are empathetic and give her space to heal, there’s also this urgency for things to return to normal. Even though they don’t force her, she’s cajoled to return to school so she doesn’t get too far behind. There’s also comparison made to Nick, who’s already back at school and seems fine. Vada wants to be able to heal and move on, but she’s numb and stuck. In a bid to escape those feelings of emptiness, she turns to destructive behaviour, becoming increasingly disconnected from her family and life.

As mentioned, Ortega is amazing here. She does incredible work as the lead, and has fantastic chemistry with Ziegler. Their chats together feel real, like real teens just hanging out by the pool together, yet the impact of what happened to them colours everything with a certain darkness. Mia never leaves her house anymore, and has lost interest in things that used to bring her joy. She always alone, left to her own devices, while Vada has her family for support.

One of the powerful parts of the film is director Megan Park’s use of juxtaposition. While Vada is dealing with the fallout, her sister Amelia (Lumi Pollack) is completely unaffected since she didn’t go through the same thing. There’s this one scene where Vada is texting someone and the conversation is related to the school shooting, and Amelia’s just trying to perfect a tik tok dance behind her. There’s a certain distance here, one that happens naturally and the distance that Vada creates on her own. She gets closer to those who get what she’s going through, and project anger on those who don’t. She doesn’t mean to, but she can’t help it, because all she wants to do is get better and be where they are, so this creates resentment.

The Fallout is deliberate in not following a typical narrative structure – everything feels lose and meandering, and we drift just like Vada does. While Vada does start to heal and feel more like herself towards the end, the film makes it clear that this is still a work in progress. It will always haunt her in some ways, the world now a little darker than it was before.

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The Fallout
The Fallout captures the gen z voice. It also tackles a difficult subject matter with sensitivity and nuance.