It’s a scene that leaves you breathless: teenage girl Vada (Jenna Ortega) goes to the bathroom at her school, where she meets the much more popular Mia (Maddie Ziegler). But moments later, after hearing a series of gunshots and the screams of their classmates, they stand together on a toilet in a stall shivering with fear. The horrors of the school shooting happen off-screen, but still felt in every captivating second.
It is the defining scene of Megan Park’s Sengung The fallout, Winner of the South by Southwest Grand Jury Award in the Narrative Feature Film Competition, but it is only the beginning of the exciting exploration of the film in terms of trauma, grief and recovery.
Ortega delivers a wild performance in the lead role and takes us on the emotional journey of her character. As you would expect, the journey leads to unexpected places, an unpredictable series of false starts, bad decisions, and outbursts that you would expect from anyone who has suffered from such a traumatic experience, and most importantly, from an emotional teenager who doesn’t . I don’t yet know how to sort or handle their own grief.
Ziegler is also recognized as a Mia.
There are moments when the film becomes absurd. For example, a drug-fueled sequence in which Vada literally drips down a stairwell in her school seems a little out of place. Even so, Park, who wrote and directed the drama, knows, understands, and wants to convey the aftermath of school shootings to demonstrate that there are countless victims beyond the killed and injured who receive the most outside attention. No one reacts quite alike to trauma, and the recovery process is a process of seizures and beginnings and extremes.
The fallout is an excellent film that deserves any praise that gets in its way; The story revolves around an uncomfortable subject, but relying heavily on Ortega’s natural charisma and charm, Park makes the heaviness of the material accessible and all the more effective.
This film was reviewed as part of reporting for the SXSW Film Festival 2021.
Rating by Erik Samdahl, unless otherwise stated.