Working at a grocery store and dealing with his inner demons as he puts the pieces of his life back together, Andy discovers his old hardcore punk band, Disposer, is returning home after a cross-country tour.
Nostalgic for his time as a drummer with the band, Andy summons the courage to see his old bandmates again. But before he can do that, he must confront the bad blood that he left behind after his split from the group.
This personal, intimate short drama — written and directed by Daniel Ferrer and produced by Amelia Spitler — has the jagged intensity of the band that gives the film part of its name. At turns visceral and reflective, these unpredictable rhythms capture a young man’s struggle with her inner demons and mental health, as he attempts to claw his way back to some resolution with his bandmates and friends.
Along with the ferocious punk that makes up the score, the gritty visuals authentically capture the milieu of DIY music venues and punk bands. Muted colors and beautifully moody cinematography work together with an almost itchy feel to the hand-held camerawork, which grows even more restless when Andy’s story flashes back to the past. Nested between scenes and vignettes of his quieter present, we see the cataclysmic break that led to Andy’s exile from the band he needs as an outlet.
In the present, Andy seems to have made progress with therapy and awareness, but he’s still having difficulty holding it together. The excellent writing toggles between past and present with precision, connecting past damage with the precarity of the situation at hand. It also carefully builds layers of Andy’s character, adding complexity and compassion with each turn. He may do things that are shocking or violent, but it emerges out of his profound anxieties and panic.
Actor Jack DiFalco plays Andy with a haunting intensity that is often riveting to watch. On the surface, his edginess seems de rigueur to the punk subculture, but it stems from inner pain, as he deals with what appears to be panic attacks and intense anxiety. But Andy also possesses a drive that keeps pushing him forward, even if those efforts push him to the edge. When Disposer comes back home after their tour, it puts him on a collision course of his own making — one that doesn’t unfold in the way he envisioned.
Many stories about mental health try to encapsulate their beginning, middle and end in the tidy package of narratives with neat endings. But a growing body of work recognizes how the struggles of mental health are an ongoing process. People move forward in hopes of learning to function and then revisit their pasts, which then sometimes re-triggers the trauma they experienced. There is no “happy ending” in this struggle: instead, the wisdom comes from the recognition that wholeness requires constant, consistent efforts to keep growing and learning, even if that process can be painful and confronting. Both rawly emotional and deeply compassionate, “Ex Disposer” is a remarkable portrait of a young man coming to this realization, as painful and lonely as it may be. As Andy gives voice to this insight, there is a resigned acceptance in that self-knowledge. But there is also Andy’s innate determination — and in that, hope — to keep moving forward on this journey.