The Fallout: A high school shooting and its aftermath | #schoolshooting

Written and directed by Megan Park

School shootings in the US occur at an alarming rate; this year has already witnessed 30 or so such tragedies. There are no historical precedents for these phenomena, which are unknown in much of the world. Among the most horrific incidents, etched in the public’s memory, include the mass killings at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado (1999), Virginia Tech University in Blacksburg, Virginia (2007), Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut (2012), Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida (2018) and, most recently, Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas.

What do the killings reveal about American life and society? Nothing much, according to the US media and political establishment. People doing very well are unlikely to find much wrong with the social order. By their overwhelming silence or superficiality, the film and music industries register agreement with the media and the rest of the establishment.

On the other hand, the WSWS has argued since the late 1990s that the relentless killing spree reflected a deep social sickness.

In 2019, we insisted that the “inability to guarantee the bodily and psychological safety of children goes hand in hand with official American society’s inability or stubborn unwillingness to comprehend or even seriously address the root causes of these unending tragedies.”

The Fallout

The Fallout by Canadian-born filmmaker Megan Park focuses on the aftermath of a high school shooting in an unnamed American city. With only a handful of films (ElephantWe Need to Talk About KevinMass) having taken up this thorny and painful subject, the filmmakers deserve credit for addressing it. However, as is so often the case, the seriousness of the treatment does not correspond to the seriousness of the problem. The film, while sensitively made, sidesteps the social, political and psychological sources of these calamities.

The Fallout opens with a school shooting. Sixteen-year-old Vada (Jenna Ortega) and schoolmate Mia (Maddie Ziegler), a glamorous influencer with thousands of followers, are in the school’s lavatory when the piercing sound of a gun shot and all that it implies assault their senses.

Initially shocked, the girls quickly realize they must scramble to hide themselves in a toilet stall. In the distance, we hear what must be a police officer shouting: “Drop your weapon now!” A few heart-stopping moments later, Quinton (Niles Fitch) crawls into the next stall, desperately assuring the girls he is not the shooter. Quinton, however, is covered in his brother’s blood. The action and rapid-fire events in this sequence are sharply chiseled.

After the shooting, Vada and Mia bond in a confusing, disoriented way, preferring to numb themselves with drugs and alcohol–unlike friend Nick (Will Ropp), who becomes a political activist. Vada: “Do you have nightmares?” Mia: “You have to be able to sleep to have nightmares.”

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