“The Fallout:” A Raw Approach to Trauma

In the era of coming-of-age movies, audiences have seen this genre time and time again. In her directorial debut, writer-director Megan Park takes a new and contemporary perspective that sheds light on many unfortunate issues. “The Fallout,” released Jan. 27, 2022 on HBO Max, tells the story of how 16-year-old Vada (Jenna Ortega) grapples with new realities after undergoing a mass shooting at her school. She deals with the fallout of this event and struggles with love, family, friendship and herself. 

The movie does a great job at showing how Vada feels isolated from her family, but feels comfortable with Mia (Maddie Ziegler) and Quinton (Niles Fitch), the classmates who she experienced the shooting with. In the middle of the movie, there is a scene where Vada and her sister Amelia (Lumi Pollack) sit in their living room while Amelia practices a TikTok dance and Vada texts Quinton about someone who died in the shooting. This contrast spoke to me because as much as her family moves on and tries to understand, that trauma is with Vada and other victims of shootings forever. The only people who really know it are the people who experienced it. Her parents, played by Julie Bowen and John Ortiz, try their hardest to understand her inner struggles, but the three conflict in Vada’s processing methods. 

This movie works because it feels like you are not watching a movie. The conversations are so raw and real, and you can empathize with the characters. Ortega and Ziegler have compelling performances. As they bond over their shared experience, they have incredible chemistry and share an intimate moment, which she also shares with Fitch. I also loved the plot with Vada and her friend Nick (Will Ropp). Nick takes a different approach to the trauma by taking a stand and protesting to make change, while Vada turns to unhealthy habits such as drugs and alcohol. She wants to be able to do what Nick does, but cannot bring herself to. She has a hard enough time processing her emotions, which she will learn is okay. 

Park’s film is powerful and shows how tricky dealing with trauma and life are. Navigating a film with these issues is a challenge, but she succeeded in telling this eye-opening story. However, these stories are not supposed to happen. These unthinkable events are not supposed to be “normal.” At times I found myself emotional at the conversations, reactions and, especially, the ending. These events still transpire and we become numb to them. However, movies like “The Fallout” spread awareness of the after that no one really talks about.