“Test Pattern” changes speed in the morning. Renesha is unceremoniously dropped off by her attacker and finds Evan at Amber’s. Shocked by his condition, he takes action, trying to get help from his girlfriend. The couple stumble upon the painful central truth of the film: there may not be justice after this heartbreaking experience. It is a truth that millions of victims of sexual assault live with. Many others never even try to navigate the frustrating reporting process our two characters face. Written and directed by Ford, the filmmaker navigates this thorny experience with patience and attention to detail, and results in a stirring, slow-burning drama filled with unspoken – but not invisible – wounds.
Much like Eliza Hittman’s “Never Rarely Sometimes Always”, women’s access to health care can be a cruel and demoralizing maze, full of dead ends and frustrating setbacks. “Test Pattern” dramatizes these shortcomings throughout its history. There are no facts or figures thrown at the public, just a human story that anyone with a heart could sympathize with. For example, the rape kits that are so vital to criminal investigations can only be administered by a trained nurse and time is running out. This is dramatized by a frustrating visit to the hospital which lacks trained staff. Even though the hospital has completely failed Renesha, she must accept the charges of being admitted, adding financial injury to the insult. Then it becomes an exciting race to the next hospital as time goes on. It is one of the many ways our country’s healthcare system has failed another black woman. The many hardships Renesha and Evan face seem like a Kafkaesque bureaucratic nightmare, but it’s a shamefully too real situation. And that’s without remedying the backlog of untested rape kits preventing women like Renesha from feeling closed.
Between scenes of medical roadblocks, Evan and Renesha’s relationship begins to change as well. It is a crisis they have never faced. Her trauma is both invisible but present, as seen when she flinches when he touches her knee. The memory of the assault, hazy as it is, remains in his body. As a white male, Evan doesn’t seem used to being denied or facing so many difficulties seeking care. He screams in frustration, but Renesha – both tired and sore – is calm. At one point, she completely loses faith in the system and asks to go home. But Evan is persistent, finally calling the police, a move that really triggers Renesha and likely her feelings about how cops failed black women, a point Amber brings up earlier in the film. Without directly addressing their racial differences like a duller script might have done, Ford fits it perfectly into the story, trusting actors Hall and Brill to embody their characters’ unspoken tensions. Hall especially stands up on occasion, communicating to the audience every injury his character suffers. There is a point where she just falls to the ground defeated, and it looks like a surrender, but she soon takes her guard to fight against Evan’s well-meaning but incompatible intentions. Combined with the talents of cinematographer Ludovica Isidori and the music of Rob Rusli, Ford’s ‘Test Pattern’ is a gripping human drama, which examines the intersections and inequalities between race, gender and the health of a woman. poignant and powerful way.
Now play in virtual theaters.