The Fallout: Recovery Isn't Linear
The Fallout premiered on HBO on January 27, 2022 and landed with a 92% on rotten tomatoes. Starring Jenna Ortega and Maddie Ziegler, the film addresses the severity of school shooter incidents and how trauma and teen life coexist. The writing attempted to be current, but meaningful, and shed a light on today's social media obsessed youth, and the challenge of accepting collective grief and moving forward. The Fallout follows 16 year old Vada (Jenna Ortega) whose fellow student shoots up her high school. At the time of the incident, Vada is with cool girl Mia Reed (Maddie Zeigler), and later, her fellow student Quinton.
There wasn't an incredibly built up plot in this film. Rather, it was filled with tranquil shots of the often quiet, but painful depths of grief. Vada and Mia find companionship in their suffering and their shared experience. They find comfort with each others mere presence, and there is rarely any instance of dialogue between them discussing the incident. Most of their time spent with each other is watching movies in silence, swimming, smoking, drinking, and doing other normalized teenage activities.
A misconception this film debunked was that grief has a solution. Oftentimes when we turn to our loved ones for solace, they offer solutions and remedies for our grief. Although, proven by Vada and Mia’s relationship, while there are healthy measures to take to manage one's grief, it is incurable. The only thing to do is to sit in the muck and feel it through, and the best way to do it is with someone else.
Jenna Ortega brings a beautiful performance with raw confusion and agony. The casualness yet heaviness in which she carries the trauma of Vada is captivating and allows the film to truly capture the layered emotions of when teenage-hood and grief intersect.
While Vada is navigating returning to school, mending her relationship with her family, processing her trauma, and finding safety within herself, she is also moving through the growing pains of adolescence. Discovering her sexuality, falling in love, and balancing friendships; Vada is lost in the realms of high school and trauma that she is stuck between.
I enjoyed how the film didn’t push an intense lesson on the audience. There is no solution to Vada’s grief, as the ending scene leaves us on a disheartening note, but there is hope for growth and acceptance. I thought there were a few moments in the writing that were corny and not entirely realistic to today’s teenager, like the overuse of the word ‘vibe’. Although, I think overall the film did a good job of capturing the shallowness of today's phone obsessed teenagers, and the hidden desire for connection within today's youth. The film also did an incredible job in creating a simple landscape with a narrative that could be interpreted and connected to numerous audiences. The Fallout is certainly worth a watch, for its realistic depiction of adolescent grief and collective trauma.