AFF ’28: ‘Disfluency’ Review

By: Amanda Guarragi

Before diving into Disfluency, there needs to be a disclaimer because of the subject matter. Even though the trauma Jane endures is not explicitly seen, the emotional depth of the pain is felt. After failing her final college class, Jane (Libe Barer) returns home to her family’s lake house, and comes to terms with the confusing trauma that derailed her senior year. The film begins with the night of her traumatic event blending with the anxiety of returning to class and not being able to focus. The title of this film works into the language used and how we end up silencing ourselves when it can get difficult to articulate our pain.

This is the definition of disfluency: interruptions in the regular flow of speech, such as using uh and um, pausing silently, repeating words, or interrupting oneself to correct something said previously. When watching this, we hear Jane – who is studying to become a speech therapist – struggle with speaking when having panic attacks, due to the flashbacks she has of that night. Writer-director Anna Baumgarten fully explores the mental state of someone who has suffered trauma. She shows Jane struggling with panic attacks, anxiety, and responding with empty words, in order to make everyone think that she is fine.

There are heartbreaking moments in this film that truly show how incredible of a young actor Libe Barer is. It’s really interesting watch her get into this mindset and have you resonate with Jane’s pain. In each moment of panic, or anxiety, Barer takes you on the journey with her. This also plays to the strength of Baumgarten, who let those moments breathe, and she held the frame on Jane to show her processing everything in her own time. The structure of this film works extremely well in order to execute this story to make an impact on audiences. Each moment with Jane is filled with subtle piece of dialogue that reflect her trauma and how much she has changed because of it.

Disfluency is a tough watch but it is important to go on this emotional journey with Jane. Baumgarten’s script is emotional, open-minded, and effective. She knew exactly what she needed to show in order for the viewer to understand the trauma without actually showing it to the full extent. Instead of using blunt visuals, the aftermath of Jane’s relationships with others and her social anxiety in certain situations, made her mental state known. It is a very unique and progressive way to address trauma and mental illness. This is probably my favourite film to come out of the Austin Film Festival so far.

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