Austin Film Festival Review: Disfluency
Communication breakdown in this award-winning drama
By Adrienne Hunter,
3:53PM, Fri. Oct. 29, 2021
“As you know, speech is not perfect, because we are not perfect.” These first words of Austin Film Festival Narrative Drama jury award winner Disfluency are uttered by a professor as student Jane (Libe Barer) dreams.
From the vivid and ominous dream sequence to the ensuing interactions she has after waking up, it’s clear that Jane not only studies speech and communication but has a very personal and peculiar relationship with it. That curiosity is explored when Jane sits next to the young child she’s babysitting. She observes him; she tries her best to engage with him. Struggling to get a reaction, she notices something that parallels her own experiences and childhood. When the child’s mother arrives home, Jane attempts to give her insight, but these revelations prove to be difficult for the mother to digest.
Disfluency follows Jane as she returns to her family’s home after enduring a traumatic senior year of college. With a change of pace from her busy, work-centric life, Jane has very few plans for the summer, which allow her to re-discover new relationships from her adolescence.
Hesitant to open up about her experiences, she befriends a neighbor, Amber (Alden), who gave birth to a child not long after graduating high school. After the initial observation Jane makes when babysitting Amber’s son, the two eventually begin to work together in unexpected ways that lead to a surprising friendship. Like the women's connection, Disfluency is filled with dynamic relationships that come together to tell an eloquently compelling story about the links between trauma and communication.
Characters like Jane’s conservative father (Ricky Wayne), eager-to-please sister (Ariela Barer), strict mother (Diana DeLaCruz), and sleazy childhood friend (Travis Tope) are written in such an intentional manner that they create an intimate and personal perspective into Jane’s experiences, offering completely unexpected insights. Through these relationships come tender moments of authenticity that not only add to the intimacy, but showcase the attention to detail displayed when paid off in such conscious ways.
While there are moments of dialogue and character interaction where the film’s message is very explicit, even heavy-handed, they are more than made up for by the genuineness exuding from the film. Through attention to detail, dynamic character relationships, and strong performances, Disfluency proves to clearly communicate a meaningful and insightful story that will surely leave a strong impression.
Narrative Feature jury award winner
Austin Film Festival, Oct. 21-28. Find all our news, reviews, and interviews at austinchronicle.com/austin-film-festival.