The Fallout parents guide

The Fallout Parent Guide

With its non-judgmental realism, this heartrending film fosters empathy for the trauma experienced by students who survive school shootings.

Overall C+

HBO Max: In the aftermath of a school shooting, high school student Veda navigates the ensuing trauma and how it affects her life and relationships.

Release date January 27, 2022

Violence B-
Sexual Content D
Profanity D
Substance Use D

Why is The Fallout rated R? The MPAA rated The Fallout R for language throughout, and teen drug and alcohol use.

Run Time: 92 minutes

Parent Movie Review

Vada (Jenna Ortega) enjoys a low-key life in high school. Having coffee with her friend Nick (Will Ropp), coaching her sister Amelia (Lumi Pollack) through her first period, and sitting through geology classes are all she has planned for the day. That is, until she finds herself cowering in a bathroom stall with Mia (Maddie Ziegler) and Quinton (Niles Fitch) as a former classmate pulls a gun and starts randomly shooting students in the halls. Although Vada and her friends survive, not everyone is so lucky.

Numb and confused, Vada struggles to reconnect with her life as it used to be, until she gets in touch with Mia and Quinton, both of whom are also trying to cope with the aftermath of the violence. As Vada gets further from the tragedy, she starts to realize that she’s not going to be able to outrun the trauma, and sooner or later, she’s going to need to confront what happened.

Growing up in a world with active shooter drills and seemingly bi-weekly news reports of gunfire in classrooms isn’t easy. Although shootings are quite rare in my home country of Canada, anxiety about them was prevalent enough that I routinely spent time in school huddled under a desk while teachers and police ran lockdown checks and security drills. I cannot imagine how difficult it is for American students who face a much higher chance of needing those drills. This movie should give you a pretty good idea – and it isn’t pretty.

The Fallout is tough to watch but Jenna Ortega stands out in the lead role, bringing humor and emotion to a character ricocheting between trauma responses as her previously quiet and predictable world falls apart. Most of those reactions are inadvisable – drug use, drinking, sex – the usual poor teenage decisions, spurred on by a painful and confused mental state. Parents will be relieved to hear that those choices are portrayed negatively and have consequences. Those consequences only add to Vada’s misfortunes as she tries to navigate a new life which she neither wanted or expected. Parents are also likely to flinch at the prevalence of profanity, I would argue that, like it or not, this is a remarkably accurate depiction of modern teen dialogue. Now, by Gen Z’s standards, I’m halfway to a retirement home, but frankly, it was the same way when I was in school. I don’t imagine that people would have cussed any less had someone started shooting.

I think the same logic applies to the other content concerns: Sure, it’s not ideal behaviour. I’m not about to argue that taking ecstasy at school is a great coping mechanism, or a particularly good idea generally. But Vada’s not in ideal circumstances, and trauma makes life unimaginably messy. The Fallout is a compassionate look at the difficulties of emotional recovery, even when the protagonist hits a few bumps in the road. Hopefully, it also encourages a sustained social and political commitment to preventing further violence in schools. High school is difficult enough on its own.

Directed by Megan Park. Starring Jenna Ortega, Maddie Ziegler, Niles Fitch. Running time: 92 minutes. Theatrical release January 27, 2022. Updated

Watch the trailer for The Fallout

The Fallout
Rating & Content Info

Why is The Fallout rated R? The Fallout is rated R by the MPAA for language throughout, and teen drug and alcohol use.

Violence: A school shooting is heard and discussed but not shown. An individual is seen covered in blood.
Sexual Content: Teenage characters are seen kissing passionately and, in one instance, have sex off-screen without detail or description. A teenage character is seen from the shoulders up in the bath.
Profanity: There are 32 uses of sexual expletives, 17 uses of moderate profanity, and frequent uses of mild curses and terms of deity.
Alcohol / Drug Use: Teen characters are seen drinking, smoking marijuana, and on one occasion, taking MDMA. Adult characters are briefly seen drinking.

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The Fallout Parents' Guide

Between 2018 and 2021, the United States saw 92 school shootings. In fact, the United States has more school shootings than most other countries combined. What factors exist in America which allow this phenomenon? What kind of legislation has been proposed to address it? How do you think this problem could be resolved? How do your government representatives vote on the issue?

Education Week: School Shootings in 2021: How Many and Where

CNN: The US has had 57 times as many school shootings as the other major industrialized nations combined

CNN health: Why the US has the most mass shootings

Vox: The school shooting generation grows up

This film also references student activism against gun violence, something that picked up a lot more media attention after the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Florida in 2018. What has the reaction been to those student activists? What kind of threats have they faced in the pursuit of safety for students? What kind of solutions have they suggested?

Time: The School Shooting Generation Has Had Enough

Sandy Hook Promise: Take Action

March for Our Lives: We Want Change!

ABC News: Parkland activists heal over years while pushing gun reform

The Guardian: “We can’t let fear consume us”: why Parkland activists won’t give up

How do Vada’s parents handle the situation? Do you think they should have done anything differently? Which moments stand out to you as examples of effective and compassionate parenting?


Home Video

Related home video titles:

Us Kids and Parkland Rising are both documentaries that address the aftermath of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas shootings. Michael Moore’s documentary, Bowling for Columbine, addresses the Columbine school shooting.

The trauma caused by school shootings is the subject of Mass, a movie that brings the parents of a dead student together with the parents of the killer.

A more surreal interpretation of this kind of teen trauma is in Spontaneous. Films more directly about gun violence on campus include Elephant and We Need to Talk About Kevin.