The Fallout is an HBO Max film that follows Vada and her friend as she experiences the emotional fallout after a school shooting. The main character, Vada, is played by Jenny Ortega, and her friend Mia is played by Maddie Ziegler. The Fallout conveys an important message about the effect of gun violence on teenagers, but the impact is diminished by the writers’ attempts to represent teen slang and culture. Regardless, the film still does a great job of communicating the mental struggles many youth grapple with after enduring a very traumatic event. Sadly, this movie is relatable for thousands of teens who have experienced similar situations.
At first glance, the scene of the school shooting seems rushed and too early in the movie. Yet, the so-called premature placement of the scene has the effect of showing how sudden something like this can happen in real life. The movie progresses quickly after the scene of the shooting, which shows how teens must return to “normal life” and are expected to be the same person they were before the shooting. The rest of the movie explains why life can never be the same again for someone like Vada; this is especially apparent in the film’s ending, when Vada sees news of another school shooting and realizes she will always be affected by what happened. No matter how far Vada runs from what she went through, what she experienced will continue to impact other teenagers, and as long as it does, Vada can’t completely move on.
One issue with this movie is that there are too many lines in the film that feel clunky. There are entire conversations that sound awkward when they aren’t meant to feel that way to the audience. It seems that the reason for this is because the writers were trying to use language they think teens use. However, this tactic is not effective because either the language doesn’t fit well or it’s not something teenagers would say. Phrases such as “that is my vibe,” and “are you picking up what I’m putting down,” are a few examples. The obvious disconnect between script writers and today’s youth has been an issue in many recent movies and TV shows, some of which include Ginny and Georgia, The Kissing Booth, and the Gossip Girl reboot. The majority of The Fallout is well written, but young viewers might find themselves constantly distracted by the cringe-worthy attempts at Gen-Z lingo and unable to appreciate the deeper meaning of the movie.
The Fallout is Megan Park’s directorial debut in film. Park has been acting for many years and directed the music video “Watch” by Billie Eilish, but this is her first full length movie. Park felt that a lot of her work in films like Central Intelligence and Once Upon A Prince was inauthentic and unfulfilling, which is why she wanted to make something that spoke on an important issue.
As for the actors, Jenny Ortega perfectly fit the role of Vada. Previously, Ortega has been known as a Disney star, acting in Stuck In The Middle and Yes Day. In The Fallout, Ortega proves herself to be a more serious actor. Ortega does a wonderful job in authentically portraying a student dealing with the struggles that arise for school shooting survivors.
Choosing Maddie Ziegler to play Mia, a classmate with whom Vada becomes close to as a result of the shooting, was a more controversial choice. Ziegler originally found fame on the reality TV show Dance Moms. Though she is known as a dancer, she has acted in The Book of Henry, and most recently, West Side Story. Some speculated that Ziegler may have only gotten the role because of her fame. However, Ziegler did go through a standard audition process to earn her role as an Instagram famous dancer, which she is in real life. Although Ziegler does fit the role, it was risky to cast someone so inexperienced.
The Fallout conveys a very important message and accurately portrays the mental health struggles of many teens. This impact is sometimes lessened, however, because of the awkward dialogue and Ziegler’s subpar acting. It is apparent that films and shows will become more impactful only when screenwriters stop trying to include dialogue just for teenagers, and simply write what is authentic to the story.