The Fallout is a moving tale from writer-director Megan Park. The film follows the lives of three high school students after a shocking tragedy. Themes of repression, acceptance, and friendship are all covered. Park won the Brightcove Illumination Award for Best Director while the movie was named the best in the Narrative Competition at SXSW. Many directors have had strong debuts, but few have told a story as risky and powerful as Park’s.
Park’s directorial debut deals with one of the most unfortunate issues in today’s world. Things start off like any other high school coming of age film. Vada (Jenna Ortega) and her best friend Nick (Will Roop) are on their way to school without a care in the world. When Vada goes to the bathroom to call her younger sister, a shooting occurs at the school. It is at this point, The Fallout morphs into a completely different type of high school story.
There is an authenticity to the film that is not always found in movies with similar settings. The script becomes so focused on dealing with its ideas, that the school becomes little more than a backdrop. Even the most revered movies like Scream and The Breakfast Club sometimes slip into adults acting like high school kids. The Fallout always views life through the eyes of students. Their attitudes, reactions, and manner of speaking are directly from Gen-Z. Realism like this is not found often.
This helps make The Fallout an emotionally genuine film. In the face of extreme tragedy, people will react differently. Though the film is mainly Vada’s story, it still deals with the aftermath of what other students are going through. Some want to act and make sure it never happens again while others want to remember the positive qualities about those they lost. Some of the kids (Park does an excellent job of showcasing that these are just kids) just want to be left alone. Through it all there is an undercurrent of trying to understand why the shooting happened.
The ending may be one of the most polarizing moments in the film. The sound design is muted, as if it is being respectful to the tragedy that has occurred. There are long moments of silence broken only through texts and the sound of a phone buzzing. It gives everything space to breathe and allows everyone to soak in the raw emotion of what happened. The final notification is heavy handed, but it is the rare case in which it should be. It is the exclamation on what the students have gone through and what is happening in the world. And it is just another reason why The Fallout is a success.
SXSW is March 16 – March 20. Tickets and a full lineup can be found here.
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