#SXSW: “THE FALLOUT”
Review by Amanda Gilmore
During a deadly high school shooting, Vada (Jenna Ortega) and fellow students Mia (Maddie Ziegler) and Quinton (Miles Fitch) survive by hiding in a bathroom stall. In the aftermath, Vada struggles with processing her emotions and suffering from PTSD. Her relationships with her family and friends, along with her view of the world are forever altered.
Canadian Actress-Writer-Director Megan Park makes her Feature-debut with this heartbreaking look at one student’s emotional fallout following a school shooting. Park creates a difficult task for herself by making her protagonist a student who doesn’t process trauma in a traditional way. Overall, Vada is a character that is so anxious about returning back to school she’s halted her life. In doing so, she has given audiences a different look into grief and trauma for a teenager, while making us question: what is the “right” way to process such a horrific experience?
From the beginning, Park brings us into the life of a modern-day teenager. We are taken into the world of social media, teen influencers, and text communication. She does an effective job of making her text messaging scenes entertaining by adding background action and music, which is scored by FINNEAS. Most importantly, she has a grasp on the slang and rhetoric of a teenager today and laces her script with authentic dialogue.
The most impactful scene in the Film happens near the beginning when the three students are in the bathroom. Park effectively uses terrifying sounds of gunshots and the reactions of Ortega and Ziegler to bring us into this horrifying experience. Once the students are in the confines of the bathroom stall, close-up shots create visual claustrophobia for Vada and Mia’s inner turmoil. The stakes and anxiety become heightened for the characters and audience when Quinton enters covered in his brother’s blood. Overall, it’s heavy material that is depicted and handled in a serious manner.
This scene is expertly acted as well. Ortega, Ziegler and Fitch’s unflinching fear are prominent and heartbreaking. There is no need to see the horror that happens offscreen because we can see the horror among their faces. Throughout the film, Ortega is magnetic to watch. She manages to portray the emotionally numb Vada in an expressive way. This is a darker role for her than her previous work and it’s clear she has an emotional range. In a minor role, Julie Bowen gives a touching performance as Vada’s anxious and caring mother. And young actress Lumi Pollack plays Vada’s younger sister Amelia. She provides moments of comic relief and has a powerful scene with Ortega near the end that requires tissues.
The Fallout screens at SXSW Wednesday, March 17, 2021 at 5 PM ET