Trigger warning: This article talks about shootings and school shootings.

Illustration by staff illustration Sakura Siegel.

Mass shootings have unfortunately been a constant in the United States for years.

There was a brief period, during the beginning of the pandemic in 2020, where there were no mass shootings to report on. Sadly, with the recent shootings in a Brooklyn subway, a Buffalo supermarket, and — most recently — Robb Elementary School in Texas, shootings continue to happen. 

“The Fallout,” a coming of age drama written and directed by Megan Park that was released on HBO Max in January 2022, follows the fallout from a school shooting, and covers topics like gun control, mental health, love, drug abuse and teenage drinking.

The movie stars Jenna Ortega, Maddie Ziegler and Julie Bowen. The actresses mentioned play roles that are not typical to what most people would know them for.

Bowen is probably most well-known for playing Claire Dunphy on the sitcom “Modern Family.” In the movie, she plays Jenna Ortega’s mom, Patricia, as she tries to help Jenna’s character recover from her trauma. Her usual tv sitcom humor is replaced by a more serious tone.

Ziegler is best known for being on the reality tv show “Dance Moms.” When Maddie’s character, Mia, is first introduced she is shown to be a dancer and social media influencer, and is one of the more popular kids in school.

During the movie, Mia is shown to be more than just a dancer, and while she is perceived to be this tough, intimidating, cool person, she is more of a nice, calm, and chill person.

As Mia deals with the trauma of the shooting, she grows closer to Ortega’s character, resulting in a romance.

Ortega plays Vada, a girl who is affected the most by the school shooting.

While Ortega has appeared in more mature roles such as Netflix thriller show “You,” the sequel/reboot horror movie “Scream,” and horror movie “X”, she may be remembered more for her roles when she was a child. As a child, Ortega played the role of Young Jane on the CW show “Jane the Virgin,” and the role of Harley Diaz on the Disney Channel show “Stuck in the Middle.”

Ortega’s character, Vada,  drink alcohol, do drugs, and be sexually active, may be quite the shock to people who remember her Disney channel days, when “Stuck in the Middle” aired its series finale in 2018.

For many, we may be fortunate enough to never have to personally experience the tragedy of a school shooting. Still, the other themes within the movie may be relatable with viewers.

As Vada tries to return to normalcy, she finds it difficult to express herself, often telling her family she is fine, when she clearly is not. Vada’s best friend, Nick, becomes an advocate for gun control and is very vocal to wanting stricter laws, while Vada still is unable to process what had occurred.

Vada starts to develop feelings for Quinton, who hides with Vada and Mia in the bathroom when his brother is killed by the shooter. Vada kisses Quinton, to only be rejected, mainly due to timing, and Quinton still hurting from his brother’s death.

Vada is forced by her parents to attend therapy, where she tries to make light of the situation and herself, where she is reluctant to open up. When Vada returns to school, she is too scared to use the bathroom.

Vada tries to wait until she heads home to relieve herself, but someone crushing a can of soda — which sounded like a gunshot — results in Vada peeing on herself. To calm herself Vada takes ecstasy in school, where Nick is able to find her, and take her home.

Vada is most comfortable with Mia, as they end up kissing and having sex. Vada isolates herself from Mia as well shortly after. The ending of the movie has Vada seemingly returning to her former self, and reconciling with her family. She has opened up, and is more honest in therapy.

Vada apologizes to Mia, and they reconnect. As Vada waits for Mia outside her dance class, Vada receives a notification on her phone of a school shooting, resulting in her having a panic attack.

With the current climate of the world, “The Fallout” is a movie that will resonate with the audience due to how real the movie feels.

The performances by everyone makes all the characters feel very real.

It is being predicted by Variety that Ortega will earn her first Emmy nomination for “Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series or TV Movie.”

Maybe, the most heartbreaking aspect of this movie is that there is no happy ending.

Just as Vada has seemingly recovered from her trauma, she has a panic attack that begins her pain cycle again. That is the sad reality in the world we live in currently.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to all those affected by the recent shootings. Please visit for more information on gun control.

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