Test Pattern is a powerful directorial debut from Shatara Michelle Ford. The movie is about an interracial couple whose bond is put to a horrifying test. After a Black woman is sexually assaulted, her white boyfriend drives from hospital to hospital in search of a rape kit. Along the way, the film examines themes of race, power, and systemic indifference.
The film plays out in three very distinct acts. The first part sees Renesha (Brittany S. Hall) and Evan (Will Brill) meet and build their relationship. It is standard romantic drama watching the two come together. Both give off great performances and the couple is instantly likeable. In a nice touch, as the relationship progresses, Renesha has more tattoos (Will is a tattoo artist).
The second and third acts deal with assault and Evan’s attempts to find a rape kit. Unsurprisingly, these are the most powerful moments of Test Pattern. The film almost becomes a psychological thriller at this point. Test Pattern takes on a number of topical themes such as the #MeToo moment and the health system in America. In a refreshing change, it looks at these issues from the point of view of a Black woman. Unlike other films that deliver the same messages from a place of power, Ford’s is able to bring a different context.
This is most evident in the conversations between Evan and Renesha. Due to their upbringing, the two have very different ideas about how to handle the situation. Evan is part of the white patriarchal society that Renesha has only lived in. Their ideas never align and puts a toll on their relationship. These moments are just as powerful as the indifference of the police and hospitals.
Test Pattern is an eye opening look at the racial inequality in the country. The shame and guilt felt by victims, the contrasting ideas of what should be done after an assault, and the health system are tackled head on. The film also shows the striking difference between how white people and people of color react to situations. It is a heartbreaking watch that sheds light on a rarely discussed problem.
Test Pattern premieres on virtual cinema through Kino Marquee February 19
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