THE FALLOUT. Jenna Ortega stuns in the tale of friendship born of trauma

The Fallout is an extremely mature debut.

Dawid Myśliwiec

28 June 2023

fallout movie jenna ortega

Vada Cavell is a resolute, energetic and very nice high school girl. We meet her literally moments before her life is turned upside down and deprived of a sense of security. The Fallout kicks off some happy moments in Vada’s life – the start of the day at a house full of love, a joyful ride to school with a friend – but after just a few minutes, Megan Park’s movie takes a 180-degree turn. Amid shots and screams, the teenage heroine is about to lose her innocence.

The Fallout is an extremely mature debut of a moderately known, but already having a lot of experience, less than 35-year-old Canadian actress. Megan Park decided to reach for a subject that had already been very successfully addressed in the cinema – it was realized by her compatriot Denis Villeneuve in Polytechnique (2009), and an even more famous example is the Golden Palm-winning Elephant (2003) by Gus Van Sant. However, the young director approaches the issue in a different way – she does not build tension or try to explain the details of the tragic incident at Vada’s high school. The shootout, in which a group of the protagonist’s peers are killed, takes place somewhere behind the closed door of the school restroom, where Vada is hiding together with her previously unknown high school beauty, Mia, and a black friend, Niles. The terrifying scene, which allows you to feel the threat almost on your own skin, comes early enough to be an absolute surprise. The viewer has no right to be prepared for what is happening – just like these teenage students, despite the training on behavior during a school shooting that is so common in the US today…

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So Megan Park does not focus on the genesis of this tragic situation, does not look at the hundreds of small decisions and reasons that contributed to this incident traumatizing the students – she prefers to show how this shock affects Vada and her new, unexpected, co-survivors, about which until recently she knew nothing. The Fallout shows a friendship born of trauma – Park proves that a specific closeness can arise where there is pain, doubt, rage and a sense of threat. Faced with a tremendously traumatizing experience, the teenagers grow closer to each other to a degree previously unknown to them. Especially Vada and Mia, girls – it would seem – from two distant galaxies, find solace in common company, which begins to be a cure for mental and emotional tremors. Together, they work through trauma and grief, doing what teenagers do best – having fun, fooling around and experimenting.

Megan Park approaches her characters with tenderness and understanding. It gives them time, as Vada’s parents give it, and allows them to balance themselves in their own way. At the same time, in The Fallout you will not find cheap drama – scenes of screaming, tearing hair from the head or gratuitous violence. Vada will not quarrel unnecessarily with her parents, she will not reject the help of a psychologist, but on the other hand, she will inadvertently derail her relationship with her beloved younger sister. Jenna Ortega, who plays the main character, proves that she is one of the most promising actresses of the youngest generation and her character is a really cool, smart teenager who you want to cheer for, just like moreover, like her friendship with Mia (Maddie Ziegler), a beautiful, tall and somewhat lonely girl in love with dancing. Somewhere in the background of all this, Vada’s parents appear – very naturally created by Julie Bowen and John Ortiz – bringing a bit of humor to the whole situation, but also genuine care and understanding. Above all, however, Vada receives probably two most important things from them – time and space to recover.

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The Fallout is a feature debut that every young director dreams of. This may not be such a daring first story as in the case of Emerald Fennell, who is only a year older, and her Promising. Young. Woman, but equally thoughtful and mature. At a time when we are constantly receiving information about shootings in the USA, it is worth reminding filmmakers that the victims of these tragic events are not only those who lose their lives in them…

Dawid Myśliwiec

Dawid Myśliwiec

Always in "watching", "about to watch" or "just watched" mode. Once I've put my daughter to bed, I sit down in front of the screen and disappear - sometimes losing myself in some American black crime story, and sometimes just absorbing the latest Netflix movie. For the past 12 years, I have been blogging with varying intensity at MyśliwiecOglą

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