Written by: Megan Park
Starring: Jenna Ortega, Maddie Ziegler, Shailene Woodley, Julie Bowen, John Ortiz
Reacting to tragedy has no stock response for what each individual should do, especially when occurring to such young folks unprepared for the trauma they must endure. With an unfair and tragic trend with school shootings happening rampantly across America, The Fallout deftly breaks down the different ways this can look by providing the proper reassurance to its characters. Beautifully complex and bringing forth a tremendous showing by the lead actor, this feature proves to be incredibly special.
Following a tragic shooting at her high school that has left the entire community shaken to its core, Vada (Jenny Ortega) processes her grief along with several of her classmates. With some using this moment to fight for legislative change and others just wanting to curl up in bed, Vada learns she must go through this grieving process in her own way.
Films tackling the subject matter of school shootings take on the harsh reality not only of loss of life but of it happening to young folks who have barely had the opportunity to live their lives. Add in the factor of it occurring in a place where learning should be taking place and a consistent expectation of safety, it leaves such a brutal impact and this film certainly depicts the aftermath of it all with grace. A lack of exploitation makes itself evident as this feature pushes on and its respectful attitude towards the characters and the decisions they make allow for this to be a beautifully human experience on the subject matter.
While different students receive their opportunities to share their perspectives, everything revolves around Vada and how she puts herself forward both before and after the horrific incident. Stuck in a bathroom when everything goes down, she shares this experience with Mia (Maddie Ziegler) and the bond they form because of it makes them fairly inseparable. Barely acquaintances before but now, after sharing such a terrifying experience, they realize no one else can truly relate to the experience, and more importantly, the gut-punching feeling sitting at the bottom of their stomach since it occurred. It beckons recognition for Maddie Ziegler, who just came off an acting role, which would nicely be portrayed as questionable with pop artist Sia, she really flexes her muscles here in serving as the counterbalance and comfort to Vada in this journey. Almost an alluring figure throughout the feature, the relationship of her character with Vada shifts in multiple directions in the aftermath and steps right up to Jenny Ortega to bring the necessary emotions to their scenes.
Coming as no coincidence with the shooting that took place at Parkland, one of the larger aspects of the aftermath came from a fervent level of youth activism demanding gun control from the legislative forces of the government. This makes its way into the story with Nick (Will Ropp). He goes all-in with his approach and the growing tension he has with Vada because of her reaction to all of this demonstrates the empathetic attitude of this feature. Yes, someone like Nick can have the strength and motivation to fight for change, but just because someone like Vada just wants to lay around and continually process what occurred does not show weakness. As mentioned before, everyone has their way of processing what occurred, and adding in the hormones of students in high school certainly adds a bit more variability to it all.
With good supporting cast members all around, this movie belongs to Jenna Ortega through and through. A young actor who will undoubtedly explode and while the low profile of this film probably will not be her breakout, she absolutely proves to be a captivating presence on screen. Capturing both the pain and little moments of joy this character has to offer, Ortega has such a delicate handle of this character to be the audience surrogate in all of this. It becomes easy to process the emotions of what occurs in this story because she seamlessly humanizes it through her smaller gestures and wonderful line delivery. A starlet in the making and I’m glad to have experienced something so early in her career.
Coming in with plenty of heart and seeping with beautifully processed emotions, The Fallout more than adequately breaks down the different emotions running through the teenagers of this story and how the same can occur to the unfortunate crop of students who have also experienced this trauma. Never easy to fully process and this film completely just gets it with how it elegantly portrays it all. In her feature directorial debut, Megan Park knocks it out of the park in allowing this story to be about the students and their personal battles rather than making grand sweeping statements. Thought-provoking in its own intimate way, this feature beautifully wears its heart on its sleeve and for good measure.
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