‘The Fallout’ is an evocative masterpiece

Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

Director Megan Park outlines the anxiety and fear that our society has gone through in her directorial debut, “The Fallout.” The movie centers around Vada (Jenna Ortega), a 16-year-old student who undergoes the trauma of a school shooting. Her emotional journey is seen throughout the film as she forms new friendships while also struggling to settle back into everyday life as a high school student. 

The first ten minutes will leave you feeling uneasy, even though the actual massacre is never shown explicitly. The scene where Vada is hiding in the bathroom with Mia (Maddie Ziegler) is enough to leave an entire audience in deafening silence. The fear that the two girls experience in those two minutes highlights the reality of our world. As the movie progresses, it’s hard not to feel a heavy sensation in your throat. We are immediately immersed in this tragic world and into Vada’s perspective. It’s difficult to see her character endure all of the troubling emotions she withholds. Her endearing friendship with Mia appears to lessen the pain and the numbness Vada feels, but nothing can ever really wipe away that incident for her. She feels stuck, and toward the end of the movie, there is a moment where we can see the sun shining brightly for Vada. Hope and joy flood us. We think, “Yes, there is a happy ending to this.” Unfortunately, the ending continues the chilling and unsettling feeling of misfortune. 

The artistic choices that Park makes are phenomenal. The ethereal close-ups to Vada and Mia’s faces represent the intimate and vulnerable state their characters are in. A slow montage of Vada storing away the funeral cards of every student who passed away is gut-wrenching. The scenes where Vada is seen trembling in fear in complete darkness, either in the bathtub or lying on her bed, show the effect of what one event can do to a person’s mental health. Vada attempts to deal with her trauma in tumultuous ways, such as taking drugs at school to forget her existence in the world or isolating herself from her family. These moments that Vada undergoes are meant to show that people handle trauma differently. The film captures the essence of bad decisions and the desire to feel some sort of happiness for a few minutes. 

Jenna Ortega and Maddie Ziegler manifest the simple awkwardness when new friendships arise. Their acting overall feels so natural that it’s easy to imagine their characters as real people. Niles Fitch, who plays Quinton, and Will Ropp as Nick also make their characters feel like a second skin to the actors. The simplicity of their mannerisms as awkward teenagers does not overshadow the ways they combat their inner demons. It is unfortunate and infuriating that young teenagers are faced with death in mere seconds, especially in school where their most important developmental years are occurring. We live in an age where high school kids, whether freshman to senior, can bring a gun to school, and as Vada puts it, “F— up so many lives.” 

The intense emotion throughout the film isn’t the only thing that will keep viewers glued to their screens. These characters are representing our modern society, especially those who are from Generation Z. The film does an incredible job at capturing what Gen Z kids are like, from the way they dress to how they talk. Pop culture references such as TikTok, Juice WRLD and more hit so close to home that it’s impossible not to immerse yourself into Vada and her friends’ world. Details like these help the film feel relatable, which can also be scary. The premise focuses on a school shooting, a heavy and uncomfortable subject that many viewers could find disturbing. But this is the kind of content that should be brought up more in Hollywood films. We consume media on a daily basis, and when we have the opportunity to understand the tragedy that many people have undergone in real life, our perspective on the world is broadened. We, unfortunately, do not live in a perfect world, and “The Fallout” reflects that. It shows a person’s most vulnerable moments and the frustration they feel. It focuses on how unfair life can be at times and the little control we have in certain moments. The film isn’t meant to frighten people or create paranoia; it is meant to depict how a traumatic event can hinder the lives of so many people. 

Verdict: “The Fallout” is relevant in today’s age. Its depiction of trauma and tragedy leaves little to the imagination as young teenagers try to jump back into their past selves. The film contains heavy material, and viewers should watch it at their own discretion. 


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