The Fallout Grapples With Loss, Love, and Healing-But is it Properly Executed?

Megan Park’s The Fallout Review

The Secret Life of The American Teenager’s Megan Park’s directorial debut, The Fallout was just released last week on HBOMax, a new gen-z centered film starring Jenna Ortega of Disney’s Stuck In The Middle and Netflix’s You and Maddie Ziegler of Dance Moms.

The film depicts the two girl’s budding relationship after being caught in their school bathroom together during a school shooting, their co-star Niles Fitch’s character Quinton also joins them after witnessing his brother’s death at the hands of the heinous and relevant crime. 

As the title suggests, the film isn’t necessarily about the shooting itself but deals more with the aftermath and its effects on the people who survived and the families who lost loved ones. 

Vada, portrayed by Ortega, struggles to identify and digest the impact of her own emotions not just from the shooting but regarding her family and sexuality as well. 

Her mother enlists the help of therapist Anna played by Megan Park’s Secret Life of The American Teenager co-star Shailene Woodley who has a small but vital role in the film. 

Early reviews have showered the film with praise from critics calling it “a remarkable accomplishment: a film with the confidence to pose big questions, and the humility to leave them unanswered’ and  “a movie that defines gen-z” a statement reflected by not only the cheesy but realistic dialogue but also the fear instilled in young Americans facing a rise in school shootings across the country.

While the film earns respect for tackling such a heavy and prevalent topic, the relationships, character developments, and other crucial factors that make a film memorable are lacking. Ortega gives her best performance yet as an emotionally well-rounded, cerebral girl hiding under a “chill persona”.

However, Ortega’s co-stars namely Ziegler have trouble keeping up with the depth of her character, something that would’ve proven to be especially progressive for Ziegler’s character Mia, a subversion of the pretty, popular, dance girl trope. 

The second half of the film is very much focused on Vada and her connection to all the people in her life struggling, familiar and new. As the film continues, a sort of tunnel vision is developed, circling in on Ortega’s character and not leaving much room for the other characters to find their place in the wider narrative. 

The ending is polarizing and abrupt, leaving viewers wondering what happened next-and not in a satisfying way. Many have interpreted this as a creative but direct choice to demonstrate that in these types of situations-there are no easy answers and there are no happy endings.

Musically speaking, the score composed by alt-pop musician FINNEAS lets the viewer into the minds of these young and hurting characters but is contrasted with pop and rap songs that just don’t fit the tone, especially after the shooting occurs in the film. 

With these clashing tones and fragmented plot points, The Fallout will most likely remain intensely memorable for years to come even with its admirable execution of an issue that so many films attempt to tackle but ultimately end up missing the mark entirely. The Fallout is now streaming on HBOMax

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Emme Oliver