HBOMax’s “The Fallout” portrays teenage trauma perfectly


Photo via Universal Pictures

A few days after watching the new weekly episode of Euphoria, which is really the only reason I am ever browsing HBOMax, I stumbled upon a new movie starring Maddie Ziegler. As a previous competitive dancer who was obsessed with reality show “Dance Moms” in elementary school, I glanced further into the movie. I soon realized this was not a wholesome reality show. Released Jan. 27 on HBOMax, “The Fallout” shattered my expectations. 

The movie begins by following 16-year-old Vada Cavell (Jenna Ortega) in her typical teenage life. But just 15 minutes into the film, her aura and personality change, along with that of almost every other character. As Vada experiences a school shooting in a bathroom with one other student, Mia (Maddie Ziegler), the two strangers become closer than ever through their newfound shared experiences. 

I have to be honest: I turned this movie on because it starred two of my childhood favorites. I figured it would be terrible, but after seeing one TikTok from a teenager referencing the movie, I needed to watch it before spoilers started popping up on the app. I hadn’t seen a trailer and had low expectations for what I thought would be another slow and dramatic coming-of-age teenager movie. I was quickly proved wrong. 

First of all, the acting was much better than I expected. My idea of two 10-year-old Disney Channel stars was transformed as I realized they had grown up and matured with me. 

Secondly, it was frightening how accurate writer and director Megan Park made the school shooting seem. Of course I had seen movies depicting the idea of one before, but since I related with Vada’s age and personality, I really felt like I was there with her. It didn’t feel overdramatized or like a scene from an action movie, but rather somewhat quiet and unsettling. Given the fact that school shootings are happening often in the United States, I should have imagined myself in this situation long before seeing an HBOMax film. This movie was Park’s debut, but I quickly fell in love with her directing style, and can’t wait to keep up with her future film work. 

One special thing was how correctly it portrayed teenagers. This movie portrays why Gen-Z teenagers are seen as “dramatic” and “emotional” and what really goes on in their heads, especially after a traumatic and life-changing event. It was interesting to see how differently each character reacted after the event; some couldn’t bear to step out of their houses for months, some used drugs to cope with the anxiety and others began participating in rallies to enact political change regarding school shootings and gun control. 

I genuinely think anyone can learn something from this movie. Parents of teenagers, political leaders and even teenagers in American high schools. I highly recommend “The Fallout” to anyone with an HBOMax account. And to those without one, using the HBOMax free trial in the next few weeks would be a great idea.