It's a stunning, impressive achievement for first-time filmmaker Shatara Michelle Ford, whose debut film "Test Pattern" looms large, despite being such a small film.
It has the feel and focus of a short film, and at just 82 minutes, it isn't necessarily a "long" film. It tells the story of a young, career-minded woman, Renesha (Brittany S. Hall) who falls in love with a timid tattoo artist, Evan (Will Brill), after he approaches her at a bar and asks for her phone number. But their romance is only half of the story.
On a night out with Renesha's friend Amber (Gail Bean), the two women are approached by two men at a bar (Drew Fuller and Ben Levin), who offer to buy them drinks and who seem to be looking for a bit more. Amber, who is single, is game but Renesha is very hesitant to let loose. She ultimately does, and with horrifying results. Evan and Renesha attempt to pick up the pieces after what becomes an unthinkably tragic night in their lives, but they are met with systemic hurdles that the viewer is left to make sense of, in the most complimentary and challenging of ways.
From top to the bottom, "Test Pattern" is a revelation. Brittany S. Hall is mesmerizing, with real chemistry shown on-screen with Will Brill. The movie feels organic and real at all times, and situations are shown as they happen, with no added manipulation from writer/director Ford, who showcases strong storytelling ability, and who confidently allows silence to live and breathe within her characters, to great effect.
Everyone involved is worth keeping an eye on moving forward, and "Test Pattern" is a powerful little film in its own right...but it also acts as an example of why independent film is so important to the medium, as it touches on characters and subjects that would never, ever get the time of day in a studio picture.
Genre: Drama, Thriller.
Run Time: 1 hour 22 minutes.
Starring: Brittany S. Hall, Will Brill, Gail Bean, Drew Fuller, Ben Levin.
Written and Directed by Shatara Michelle Ford (feature-film debut).
"Test Pattern" is available via Kino Lorber virtual cinemas on Friday, February 19th, 2021.
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