A teen drama you should sympathize.
“The Fallout” begins during a school shooting, but is only told through the perspectives of two teenagers who hide in the bathroom stalls. Vada Cavall (Jenna Ortega) is not as popular as Mia Reed (Maddie Ziegler) is, and just as she wants to be friends with her on Instagram, gunshots are heard, and they’re have to hide together. And they’re joined by another student named Quinton (Niles Fitch), whose brother was just murdered. He’s covered in his brother’s blood, and like the girls, he’s frightened. The intro sets the fear and nightmares in tack. School shootings are horrific. Any kind of shooting is horrific. I’ve never been trapped in one, but I still want to be careful, and to show sympathy for the unlucky ones.
Ortega was excellent in the recent “Scream” entry, while Ziegler was awfully miscast in “Music” and had a small role in “West Side Story,” but “The Fallout” allows these two young actresses to excel like never before. It’s more about the tension that takes place after the shooting, and the pain is unimaginable. It’s about the hardships of moving on, and everyone, not just the teenagers, but everyone needs to see and acknowledge the movie’s message.
Ever since the shooting, Vada can’t get back to school, while Mia is afraid to be home alone while her dads are away on business. And that’s why Mia invites her over for red wine and weed, and why they start to become good friends.
As time progresses, Vada becomes more distant from her parents (Julie Bowen and John Ortiz) and little sister (Lumi Pollack), she has to visit a therapist (Shailene Woodley), she doesn’t support much of her gay BF Nick’s (Will Ropp) protests against school shootings, starts drinking and doing drugs, befriends Quinton, and becomes closer to Mia.
“The Fallout” is the directorial debut of Megan Park, whose acting credits include “The Secret Life of the American Teenager,” “What If” with Daniel Radcliffe, and “Central Intelligence.” She writes the characters with enough vulnerabilities to show us that they mean well, and face these dramatic circumstances with their own reactions. They cry, they struggle to move on, and they resort to both drinking and distancing themselves from their families. We mostly see that through Vada, and you better believe there are times when her parents have to scold her for her behavior, and at the same time, sympathize her reality. It’s neither mean or noisy, but rather patient and considerate.
So far this season, Ortega has two fine roles that distinguish from her TV career, and makes her into an actress who adapts to moods and moments. And this is Also happens to be Ziegler’s best role on film, because of how well she transcends from a popular girl to a sacred girl wanting a friend by her side. I mean twice this week, I have seen movies where two individuals come together and form some of the most unexpected connections. “Compartment No. 6” was about two people traveling on the same train for different reasons. “The Fallout” is about two girls connecting after a tragic event.
Sure some moments could be more or less, but still, you’re able to study these teenagers, and their lives and emotions. Bo Burnham did it in “Eighth Grade,” Richard Linklater did in “Boyhood” and “Dazed and Confused,” and now, Megan Park continues the tradition with the right kind of filmmaking and narrative. You can watch this on HBO Max in the comfort of your own room, where no one can harm you. I know I did.
Streaming on HBO Max