Cleveland International Film Festival 2022 review: Anna Baumgarten’s ‘DISFLUENCY’ speaks volumes. #CIFF46

DISFLUENCY

SYNOPSIS:
After unexpectedly failing her final college class due to a traumatic personal event, Jane, an aspiring speech pathologist, retreats home to her parent’s lake house in the hometown she grew up in. Her older sister and friends, as well as an old high school crush, soften the burden of failure, inspiring her to embrace the carefree summer as she tries to sort out what to do next. She also rekindles an old friendship with her neighbor Amber, a single mother with a difficult toddler, utilizing her skills and knowledge to help her connect with her son. Jane, however, fights through PTSD and imposter syndrome as she attempts to piece together what exactly happened in order to unravel the emotional and psychological tangle that’s been haunting her as she finds a path forward toward the never-ending process of healing.


Writer-director Anna Baumgarten has a way with words. In her new film Disfluency, their weight is unfathomable. After flunking her final college course, aspiring speech therapist Jane navigates her next steps at her parent’s lake house. Struggling to reveal her motives for failure, she makes her friends and family her test subjects, studying how others use language. Jane slowly works her way to catharsis over the summer months, wearing every possible emotion on her sleeve. Disfluency is the perfect title for a film that’s bound to captivate a massive audience. Words have power and how we express them is life-changing.

Beautifully grounded performances make you fall for these characters. Discovering that actress Ariela Barer is Libe’s real-life sister makes so much sense now. As Lacy, she is hilarious, and I would be remiss not to mention her. Their chemistry is electric. Don’t assume for one second she only exists for comic relief. Lacy is a catalyst for healing.

PTSD is something that never truly leaves you. As a sexual assault survivor, I can attest to the flashbacks and how my trauma affected my relationships moving forward. It’s a permanent piece of my psyche. I understand why women don’t come forward, even to family. Not until #MeToo became mainstream did I reveal my hurt to family, and even that occurred via social media. Jane’s functionality in Disfluency mimics mine. PTSD is often an unseen burden.

Chelsea Alden‘s portrayal of Amber was also personal to me. From the sadness on her face to the eagerness to learn, I felt that performance and the care Alden brings to Amber. As a Mother of a neurodivergent son now in Kindergarten, his language delay was something I suspected early on. I remember the fear in my body when he failed his initial hearing test in the NICU. In the end, that wasn’t the issue after all. Lucky for us, his pediatrician flagged him at 18 months. Two weeks after his second birthday, he had five days a week of ABA and speech services. Now he’s a thriving, sweet, curious, and brilliant little boy. The screenplay utilizes sign language. Featured in an emotionally climactic scene that tears your heart out, it’s one of this year’s most impactful cinematic moments. 

Libe Barer, as Jane, nails every single beat, working through gaslighting, second-guessing, victim-shaming, depression, anger, and everything in between. The script gives Barer the space to explore all the complexities accompanying trauma. In a breathtaking monologue, Barer says it all, quite literally. It’s a wave of emotional nuance that packs one hell of a punch. 

With tight visual flashbacks and accidental therapy sessions in the form of slick dialogue, Baumgarten provides a conversation starter for many. It’s easy to see why it won Best Narrative Film at Oxford FF. Disfluency tackles the boundless intricacies of communication. It’s a must-see.


Screening information (VIRTUAL):
Sunday, April 10 at 11:00AM
Sunday, April 17 at 11:59PM

Ticketing information:
https://www.clevelandfilm.org/films/2022/disfluency?fbclid=IwAR0J0cyFMWDN56qzc0YXuzE-UtazQi9SWpwlxX_RmgDve9SJyMyxEZ3a6mU

ABOUT THE FILM:
Based on the 2018 award-winning short film, DISFLUENCY just won the 2022 Oxford Film Festival Jury Prize for Best Narrative Feature, which followed last year’s 2021 Austin Film Festival Jury Prize for Best Narrative Feature Film.

Director/Writer:                      Anna Baumgarten
Producers:                    Danny Mooney, Elaine Hastings Edell
Executive Producers:           Ben Wiessner, Jim Cummings, Alex Rudolph, Chicago Media Angels
Editor:                       Kevin Birou
Cinematographer:                 John Fisher
Music:                                     Nathan Alexander
Cast:                         Libe Barer, Ariela Barer, Chelsea Alden, Dylan Arnold,
Travis Tope, Kimiko Singer, Molly Hagan, Ricky Wayne,
Diana De La Cruz, Wayne David Parker
TRT:                                      95 min
Country:                      USA

Review: ‘After Class’ pits generational activism against itself with thoughtful writing and a lot of laughs.

Synopsis:
AFTER CLASS follows a New York City professor (Long) as he spends a week reconnecting with his family while defending his reputation over controversial behavior at his college.

After Class is one hell of a film. Lead by Justin Long as an adjunct professor of creative writing, the plot revolves around a moment in class that triggers his students. While the script deals head-on with the MeToo movement, it’s complexity must be experienced first hand. It’s about loyalty and family and standing up for what you believe in with some goddamn conviction. While Long leads the way, this feels like an ensemble cast because of the amount of talent stacked up. There is not a loose thread in this film. I’ve never seen Fran Drescher in a role so opposite her iconic days on The Nanny. Cast this fabulous lady in all the things. Richard Schiff is excellent in his attempt to keep the peace with families old and new. Watching him keep it together (or not) is a delight. Kate Berlant is perfection as Long’s feisty sister. She feels like she’s been doing this for ages. She easily steals the attention in every scene she’s in. And now to Long. As far as I’m concerned, Juston Long can do no wrong. His eclectic body of work always catches me off guard. While we get to see his quirky comedy, we also get some serious drama and vulnerability I didn’t know would affect me as much as it did. I was particularly amused by the fact the Berlant’s character has a podcast since Long’s newest venture (and fun as hell to listen to I might add) is a podcast with his brother titled Life Is Short. Drescher appeared on an episode I have not listened to yet and now I know why. He is undeniably charming as ever in After Class, but incredibly nuanced making it easy to remember how he is able to helm so many films. The script is constantly challenging your thought process, perhaps even making you roll your eyes, depending on what generation you relate most to. That’s kind of the beauty of this film. It’s got a lot going on in all the best ways possible. Congrats to the cast as well as a big round of applause for writer-director Daniel Schechter for a sincerely heartfelt indie. Everyone should be proud.

**Official Selection – Tribeca Film Festival**
**Official Selection – Rome Film Festival**
**Official Selection – Traverse City Film Festival**
**Official Selection – Fort Lauderdale Film Festival**
**Official Selection – Greenwich Film Festival**
**Official Selection – San Francisco Jewish Film Festival**
**Official Selection – Boston Film Festival**
**Official Selection – Nantucket Film Festival**

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Gravitas Ventures is set to release Daniel Schechter’s smart comedy/drama AFTER CLASS (formerly SAFE SPACES) in theaters and on VOD beginning December 6, 2019. The film stars Justin Long, Fran Drescher, Richard Schiff, and Kate Berlant.

The film is a compelling study of a well-intentioned millennial-aged teacher overstepping the line in class in the MeToo era and dealing with the repercussions. This comes in the middle of a family emergency when his grandmother requires hospice care, and family chaos begins to consume his life. The film provides raw moments of emotional turmoil that switches between loss, comedy, and drama, providing glimpses of beautiful and awkward moments that happen in life.

Release Date:                     December 6, 2019 – In the theaters below and on digital/VOD nationwide:
Los Angeles – Arena Cinelounge and Galaxy Mission Grove
Orlando – Old Mill Playhouse
Cleveland – Tower City Cinemas
Boston – Entertainment Cinemas Leominster
Minneapolis – Emagine Rogers 18, East Bethel 10 and Lakeville
Seattle – Galaxy Monroe
Dallas – La Gran Plaza 8
Reno – Galaxy Victorian
Las Vegas – Galaxy Theaters Luxury and Galaxy Cannery
San Francisco – 4 Star Theater
Santa Barbara – Galaxy Colony Square
Directed by:                        Daniel Schechter
Written by:                          Daniel Schechter 
Cast:                                    Justin LongKate BerlantLynn CohenBecky Ann BakerFran Drescher &
Richard Schiff
Genre:                                 Comedy, Drama
Specs:                                 93 min
Distributor:                         Gravitas Ventures