Derek Dubois’ short film Fallout paints the unfortunate picture of brothers Thomas (Michael A. LoCicero) and Billy (William Valles), forced to hide in a fallout shelter from the mysterious tormentors still savaging the outside world. As Thomas focuses on morse code, though it’s unclear who might be listening, younger brother Billy reads books, growing increasingly disenchanted with the current situation and their survival chances.
Thus is becomes a story of sibling drama as the world crumbles around them. Or at least, that’s the impression. It’s never really clear who, or what, they are hiding from. Only that Billy resents Thomas for many reasons, including their current predicament, and Thomas is growing increasingly fed up with the situation too, though he has something of a drastic plan underway.
The filmmakers manage to come up with some interesting composition despite being confined to a small space with only two characters. Camera placement and accomplished utilization of depth of field livens up the experience. There are certainly ways to shoot a film like this that would be oppressively dull, and Dubois avoids such a fate.
Sound design also plays a major role in this film, particularly as it pertains to the menace surrounding the brothers’ shelter. The changing volume of the proximity, yet consistent menace, of the sounds outside the shelter increase the anxiety as we, like the brothers, never know whether the next bang will be the one that opens the door, allowing who knows what horrors to enter. This shared stress creates an empathy with the brothers. We get caught up in it all too, and in the heat of that oppression, any choice seems like a reasonable one until silence allows hindsight to creep in.
Fallout never seeks to explain away its mystery, only to find the emotions in the scenario and run them through their paces. The result is an overall uneasiness and confusion, but one that is acceptable and fitting concerning the stressful experience. Whether the film makes any grand statements, I cannot say, but I do think it runs you through an emotional wringer because it can, and maybe the act of feeling these elements was the intention all along.
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