The Fallout Review: A Story of Grief, Friendship, and Understanding


Emmi Highness, Editor, Writer

When you sit down to watch a movie as emotionally dark as The Fallout you expect to cry and to feel extremely saddened. And although the main premise of the movie, the aftermath of a school shooting, did bring me to tears, what broke me was something much more powerful.  

The Fallout starring Jenna Ortega and Maddie Ziegler tells a poignant story of a girl who survives a school shooting. The movie is rated R, mostly for swearing and drug use as there is no graphic violence shown of the shooting. The film is written by Megan Park and is also her feature-length directorial debut. Although Ortega and Ziegler are not new to the acting scene, The Fallout pushes these young blossoming actors to a new level and will easily secure them more roles in the future.  

This movie is not about the school shooting itself, which takes place about 7 minutes into the 1 hour and 35-minute-long film. What The Fallout is truly about are the connections and relationships Vada (Ortega) creates and loses as a result of the tragic shooting. 

After the shooting, the movie dives into the different ways students deal with the trauma. Vada’s best friend Nick (Will Ropp) jumps into activism for more gun restrictions, while Vada struggles to get back to “normal” life. Because of this, Vada and Mia (Ziegler) form an unlikely friendship as they help each other through the tremulous time. As they bond by hiding out, getting drunk, and smoking weed, Vada’s relationship with her family falters.  

Vada’s parents are worried about her, and her little sister doesn’t understand why Vada suddenly hates her. Whether watching Vada’s mother try her best to understand what Vada is going through or Vada feel suffocated by her mother’s good intentions, the strained relationship between the characters will resonate with all watchers. 

While Vada’s friendships and Ortega’s funny antics keep the movie from getting too depressing, it is Vada’s familial relationships that have the strongest emotional impact. Lumi Pollack gives an amazing performance as Amelia, Vada’s younger sister. We see their extremely close sibling bond take the brute of Vada’s spiral from the shooting but are later invited to see a powerful conversation between the two that is sure to bring anyone to tears.  

Another emotional conversation is between Vada and her father (John Ortiz). Although he has a smaller role, Ortiz makes an impact in his few scenes. The scene features Vada and her father screaming on a hilltop all their pent-up emotions, like fears and wishes for the world. 

The Fallout tackles sensitive topics, like the discovery of sexuality and underage drinking and drug use, in a subtle but smart way that portrays adolescence as a time for learning lessons and growing. 

If there is any small flaw in this incredible film, it would be the excessive use of gen-z slang. Despite Mia being the popular girl and Vada being the self-proclaimed wallflower, there still is too much forced high school slang. Admittingly, sometimes the language made the movie more real, such as when Vada is in therapy and her therapist (Shailene Woodley) doesn’t quite understand her dark humor, but other times it really is not necessary.  

I recommend this movie, but viewers should be prepared for the content they are signing up for. It has an important message and tells an important story, but younger kids should steer clear or watch it with a parent. With that, I would give this movie a solid 4.5 out of 5.