Talia Rueda ’23
On Jan. 27, HBO released The Fallout, a film about the ways in which a community deals with the tragedy of a school shooting. Starring Jenna Ortega and Maddie Ziegler, two Gen Z “it” girls, the movie represents the new era of filmmaking associated with this generation while also showcasing timeless themes.
The film seems to place great emphasis on artistry and cinematic elements rather than the actual context of them. In other words, the movie prioritizes moody lighting, an “artsy” film preset, and minuscule moments between its characters. Today, such cinematographic techniques are commonly used to focus on the aesthetic world of teenagers, as evident in projects such as HBO’s Euphoria. Although The Fallout seems to focus more on the beauty of its scenes rather than the unfolding story at hand, its message is far from simple.
In telling the story of the aftermath of a school shooting, director Megan Park brings a dark situation to light. The scenes encompass small moments of grief, as well as the many different roles that people can take on after such a traumatic event. This storytelling approach brings a great deal of realism to the film.
Notably, the movie takes its audience through the shooting in only its first few minutes. In this way, the focus is not placed on the actual shooting but rather on the ways in which it affects the school community. For instance, immediately after this traumatic event, viewers see the film’s characters at home, unsure of how they are supposed to act. Some sit in silence with their family at the dinner table; others immediately seek change and host marches to make sure this never happens again.
At first glance, main characters Mia (Ziegler) and Veda (Ortega) are very different from one another. Mia is a dance influencer who is always home alone because her dads are always traveling; Veda lives a much more typical teenage lifestyle, and initially finds herself idolizing Mia before the pair form a close relationship due to their shared trauma.
Through these characters, the film excels at realistically depicting teenage friendship. For instance, there are moments of awkward silence in Mia and Veda’s growing bond. They drink wine, swim in the hot tub, and FaceTime each other every night because they cannot sleep alone, but at times find that they do not know what to say to one another. The school shooting has certainly brought them together, but just as in most relationships, there are moments of discomfort. In the context of the film, these moments of silence suggest that despite the fact that their friendship is helping them heal, the pair must navigate certain elements of their trauma by themselves.
Altogether, The Fallout details many aspects of Gen Z life, not only by representing a common tragedy that has taken place in American schools in this generation’s formative years, but also by using camera operation and lighting styles that have become popular in young people’s favorite television shows, such as Euphoria and the rebooted version of Gossip Girl. Indeed, such idealistic cinematography not only encapsulates popular Gen Z trends, such as a love for film photos and retro ideals, but also presents the reality of this generation’s struggles unique to its own members.