The Fallout (2022)
Director: Megan Park
Writer: Megan Park
Starring: Jenna Ortega, Maddie Ziegler, Julie Bowen, John Ortiz, Niles Finch, Will Ropp, and Shailene Woodley
Review: The Fallout is a very difficult movie to watch. From one of its first terrifying image of three teenagers hiding in a single bathroom stall from a school shooter to its last heartbreaking moments of human emotion, you spend the whole movie either crying or desperately holding back tears. It’s not a fun viewing experience. You’re not gonna find this on any “most rewatchable” list. But, movies like this are important. Looking into the mirror and seeing what our society is putting children through is vital. And Megan Park does a fantastic job presenting this tragic story to her audience.
The main thing that makes The Fallout work is how honest it feels. Every action that takes place over its runtime feels real and justified. I’ve thankfully never been through an event like this, but I can see how each of these reactions would happen in reality. Of course, there are the kids who take this as a rallying cry to fight for gun control. They’re the brave ones you see on the news, really fighting to make a difference. But, then, not every person is instantly going to be right there beside them. Everyone reacts in different ways. There are going to be the ones who lock themselves away from the world. The ones who spend hours and hours just crying in their room. There will be drug and alcohol abuse, as people try anything to block the pain. And, of course, there will be some who just try to ignore the situation completely. One of my favorite things about The Fallout is that it doesn’t cast judgment on any of their characters. They understand that everyone deals with trauma in their own unique way. And that’s not a bad thing. Though it is deeply unsettling to watch kids so young make questionable decisions, you understand and empathize with them for being put in that situation in the first place. It’s truly a talent.
I will say too, on a semi-unrelated note, that it helps that Megan Park seems to understand teenagers better than most of Hollywood. While their reactions to horrible events seem authentic, so do the little everyday moments we witness here. From the way they talk and text to one of them doing a TikTok dance in the background without anyone even thinking it’s slightly strange, everything feels authentic to what I’ve seen from Gen Z. Now, to be fair, I’m almost thirty, so I may be wrong. However, I have cousins that I talk to pretty regularly and this all seems true to their day-to-day lives. While not nearly as important as the big emotional stuff, little stuff like that helps to sell the overall narrative.
But, as much as I respect the hell out of her writing and directing, I can’t give all the credit of The Fallout’s success to Megan Park, because this cast is fantastic. Every single one of them gets a moment in the spotlight and they all completely crush it. First of all, Jenna Ortega has had quite a month. If you’d shown me her picture on New Years Day, I’d have told you I had no idea who she was. Now, she’s one of my favorite up-and-coming actors. She absolutely was pitch-perfect as our first victim and, then, minor heroine in Scream a few weeks ago, but completely blows that out of the water here. The sincere heartbreak and depression she brings to this role is unreal. I desperately wanted to give her a hug and tell her everything was going to be alright. And, obviously without spoilers, her final moments of this movie include some of the best acting I’ve ever seen. It’s right up there with Timothee Chalamet at the end of Call Me By Your Name. It’s a shame this won’t garner her the same kind of attention, because she deserves it. Either way, Ortega is definitely on my radar. I hope she’s a big star someday because she easily has the talent. But, like I said, the entire cast deserves all the recognition they can get here. Even the tiniest roles that really only get a scene or two to truly shine are turned into characters that’ll forever stick with me thanks to their performers. They all broke my heart in just the right ways. I cried a ton. It was a fantastic group effort. And, from now on, whenever I see any of these cast members, I’ll think “oh that’s ___! They were fantastic in The Fallout!”
I don’t really have any major complaints about The Fallout, but, of course, it’s not a review without bringing up at least one thing negative. Here, it’s one arc in particular that I feel doesn’t really have any resolution. She has a bit of a falling out with a character and despite it not feeling conclusive, we never see them again. They’re still talked about fondly, but there’s rekindling of that friendship. I feel like it’s a missed opportunity and feels jarring in the context of the rest of the movie. The runtime isn’t even that long, so a quick five minutes to put some closure there would’ve been very welcome. As it stands, it doesn’t ruin the movie for me, obviously. But, it does feel… I don’t know… off. I’d love to know what other people thought because it’s bugging me. So, reach out if you’ve seen The Fallout I guess!
Overall, I really, really enjoyed The Fallout. I thought it was the most important, jarring movie I’ve seen since Never Rarely Sometimes Always. Like that one, it’s incredibly hard to watch, but super important too. It puts a realistic, human perspective on tragedies we see all too often in this country. Not to put too much of my personal politics into this review, but, if you watch this movie and don’t feel like at least a little bit of change needs to be made, you’re a monster. Like, I don’t know that I can associate with you anymore. Because this is heartbreaking. Something has to be done to prevent stories like this from happening on a seemingly monthly basis. I’m glad people like Megan Park and Jenna Ortega are out here making sure we see the harsh realities of the world we live in.
TL;DR: The Fallout can be incredibly hard to watch, but vital in the way it humanizes all too common tragedies and is filled with fantastic performances by the entire cast.
Score: 8/10 (Great)