Now Streaming: HBOMax’s “The Fallout” examines modern trauma

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“The Fallout” is (at last, but unfortunately) a different kind of coming-of-age film. The movie posits the classic growing up tropes experienced by Vada (played by an engaging Jenna Ortega) against the backdrop of school shootings. Vada and all of her friends deal with the shootings in their own ways, but Vada, on whom the film focuses, seems to have the worst time of it. “The Fallout” is one of those films that can actually teach other generations about another’s experience.

“The Fallout”: the familiar made terrifying

This seems disingenuous, considering the source, but if viewers watch “ The Fallout” without delving into the film’s description or context, they could get erroneous impressions of what the film was about. Or, if not completely erroneous, perhaps they would get a one-dimensional idea of the film and miss the spectacular slice-of-life that “The Fallout” offers.

Without giving away too much, the movie opens with a typical big sister-little sister battle for the bathroom. The greatest tension stems from whether or not Vada will get to school on time. When Vada gets to school, and spends too much time in the school bathroom, the movie’s tension reaches 10. Another girl from another group of kids is also in the bathroom. Their fortuitous meeting will form an important basis for the rest of the movie.

The way “The Fallout” is shot makes the characters’ experiences feel like they are also happening to viewers. Thus, when shots ring out, audiences are likely to flinch and ask, “What is that?” The onscreen teens seem to know, but they do not want to, and their terror is palpable.

What might be surprising for audiences is the way the aftermath of the tragedy is dealt with. For audiences who are used to dealing with school shootings from the perspective of their couches via televised news, the reality of how students deal with such tragedies might be the most shocking. Teens continue being teens. Even as they dedicate keepsake boxes to classmates’ memorial service flyers, they still want Starbucks, first kisses, and to hang out. 

Audiences are offered an inside view of characters’ thoughts because their texts are put onscreen. The movie is interesting, but it is also bittersweet. Viewers might find themselves waiting for a neat conclusion that assuages everyone’s anxiety. However, such does not happen in real-life, and it does not in “The Fallout,” either. Still, the movie is a unique examination of modern life.

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