Struggling to cope in the aftermath of a school tragedy, a teen girl searches for a way to heal and connect back to the world around her. Starring Jenna Ortega, The Fallout takes on a terrifying epidemic plaguing American students. With such heavy themes, the film approaches the subject with sensitivity and grace, but it doesn’t hold back from exposing the dark reality we often don’t see.
Vada (Ortega) is your average high school student and today is the same old routine. She grabs Starbucks on the way in with her best friend Nick (Will Ropp), gossips about the cool girl Mia (Maddie Ziegler), and anxiously awaits for classes to end. However, her life, and the lives of her classmates and teachers, will forever be changed in a single moment.
It’s the terrifying realization that they’re in the midst of a school shooting. Hiding in a bathroom stall while listening in horror to what is transpiring outside. A fellow classmate named Quinton (Niles Fitch) hides with Vada and Mia, and while they weren’t friends before, they’ve just experienced something that will sadly bond them.
The film captures the terror of a school shooting without showing exploitative or harmful imagery. It’s aptly titled as it focuses on the aftermath of the event, which itself is only a brief moment. Director/writer Megan Park thoughtfully crafted a film that gives no name, face, or story to the person who inflicts this pain. Instead highlights how it affects the students. It’s honestly something I wish was adopted by all outlets when an event like this occurs in real life.
You hope that not many people can relate to the trauma detailed in this film, but it is a sad reality for many. And as this country is plagued by mass shooting after mass shooting, it reminds us of the people behind these moments. The survivors and their long journey to find peace—if they can.
While the message is strong, it’s not without Ortega’s exceptional performance that really drives it home. The young actress is so commanding on screen. Her talents are on full display as she tackles the rollercoaster of sadness, joy, and the grasp to find solace.
The Fallout is a film that sticks with you. It’s an upsetting subject matter, but it’s a story that needs to be told. Park gives us an authentic look at trauma, even adding brief moments of levity that inject the story with much needed catharsis. The same catharsis our characters are trying to achieve.
The final minutes, however, are a perfect reminder that trauma isn’t necessarily something a person ever gets over. They just sadly learn, in time, to process in moments that trigger.
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