Nearly two years after this shocking and realistic indie drama was screened at the Blackstar Festival in Philadelphia, it has finally come to regular distribution. And American critics welcomed the debut work of Shatara Michelle Ford with approval, as evidenced by the nominations for Best Debutant in Multiple Choices for American Independent Film of the Year. And indeed, “Test Pattern” is a poignant and disturbing study of power relations in American society and a film that leaves much to think about and hopes that no one will find themselves in a situation like the characters from this striking drama. Unfortunately, that probably won’t happen, and already in the opening scene we realize that something is wrong with a girl we’ll soon find out is called Renesha (Brittany S. Hall).
A glass of water falls out of her hand, she looks dazed, drugged and doesn’t seem to understand what’s happening to her, and some white man climbs on this black woman. Then we go back to the past, to some happier times. During one outing, Renesha will meet a seemingly clumsy and shy white man we learn to be called Evan (Will Brill). He is a tattoo artist and will somehow gather courage and invite her out, and soon the two will become a couple. And it will look like one of those unrivaled relationships, Evan will prove to be a wonderful guy and a real support to a young business woman and their life will seem quite idyllic. Until one night out and Renesha meets another white man who will lead to the scene from the very beginning of the film.
After that, “Test Pattern” turns into a real nightmare. When he realizes what happened, Evan will take his girlfriend to one, then to another, then to a third hospital to report what happened and so that what can be done from the title of the film can be done when something so terrible happens. But even though Evan believes Ranesha, they both seem to become aware of the painful truth that justice will never be for what she went through and that the abuser will get away with it. Although the theme of this film is extremely painful, uncomfortable and uncomfortable, Ford managed to present this story in which the viewer believes, thanks to a clever, subtle and layered script, inspired directing, but also good performances by the two main actors.
It all seems scary, humiliating, especially when they start visiting local clinics in Dallas where the film takes place and realize that it’s not that someone is too interested in what happened. It all seems frustrating and sad, and as Ranesha and Evan roam the city looking for a clinic with trained staff and equipment to do an examination after which they can report a rape, it is becoming increasingly clear that this horrific event could be an event that will start separating them and an event after which nothing will be the same again. “Test Pattern” is one of those movies that seems almost terribly realistic, especially since we’re all aware that something like this is happening. rating 7/10.
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