‘Test Pattern’ is the type of film that you love hearing has been made, but at the same time find it difficult to watch.
Why is this? Because of its subject matter, date rape. It’s astonishing to see a young woman make, for her writing and directing debut feature, such an uncomfortable narrative, especially with how she goes about it. The filmmaker, Shatara Michelle Ford, attacks the subject as fiercely as possible to make it overwhelming and to shock her audience. You need to feel for her protagonists and ache along with them while hoping for their success and happiness.
Renesha, played by ‘Ballers’ actress Brittany S. Hall, lives in Austin, Texas. Single and gorgeous, she loves going out with her best friend, Amber, played by ‘Paradise Lost’ star Gail Bean. Even though she usually ends up going home alone, she has a good time. Out one night with several friends, she’s rather surprised when the very timid tattoo artist, Evan (played by Will Brill from ‘The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel’), walks up to the group and asks her for her phone number. Finding him irresistible, also rather impressed with his bravery, Renesha gives Evan what he requests.
By the way, this movie defines for us the typical ‘meet cute’ in films today. In one way, it’s incredibly evident that they are a future couple meeting for the first time. Also, the courage he has, despite his shyness, makes him instantly charming. You see it, and Renesha certainly does. Though he doesn’t seem her type in the looks department, she’s a gorgeous big city girl; he has a very straight country boy look to him, they become a couple and spend all their free time together. She has even begun spending the night at his place.
Eventually, as you knew would happen, her friend Amber comes calling to have a girls’ night out. She agrees, tells Evan, and says she’ll be home by midnight. This is where the film takes a hefty turn. Once she finds out that it’s okay with him, she says she’ll be back by midnight. Especially significant for this film’s time, 2019, Renesha and Amber discuss politics, focusing on people such as Sandra Bland. I’m glad this was included because these matters shouldn’t be left out of dramatic narratives. It helps provide a look into the characters’ minds for the audience, especially with what happens next here. Renesha and Amber talk to a couple of white males, who give the women some drug-laced Gummy Bears. They’re having a good time, but Renesha wakes up in the man’s bed, having no clue where her friend is or what happened the night before.
She gets to Evan, who has already spoken to Amber and knows what happened. He’s more than understanding but overly protective at this juncture. He wants to take her to the hospital, call the police, find this guy and take care of his girlfriend when he should just let Renesha decide what’s best for Renesha and in her own time frame. At one point, he actually tells her that he’s making a tattoo to brand her as his. How out of touch can he be?! There’s no doubt he loves her, but he’s clueless as to what African American’s go through and should just love and support her. There are several frustrating scenes regarding the hospitals she goes to before she finally reaches one who can properly help her. She finally speaks with a warm, caring Nurse named Peg (Amani Starnes). What follows is her reaction to every previous action Evan had to what she went through.
‘Test Pattern’ is an important film to study. It shines a spotlight on why it’s difficult for someone to admit they were raped. It also forces us to look at what’s wrong with the system that handles it… or inadequately deals with it, victimizing the person reporting it several times over.
*’Test Pattern’ will have a limited theatrical run. Check your local listings.
Director: Shatara Michelle Ford
Writers: Shatara Michelle Ford
Stars: Brittany S. Hall, Will Brill, Gail Bean, Drew Fuller
Rating: Not Rated
Running Time: 1h 22m
Genres: Drama, Thriller