Jay Lifton's Test is the perfect example of a short film that benefits greatly from Lifton's absolute refusal to give everything away. It seems like filmmakers so often either want to make damn sure we understand every little point they want to make or they build a remarkable film only to give everything away at the end as if it wouldn't be possible for the audience to draw conclusions themselves.
Lifton, on the other hand, seems to respect both his story and his audience. Test is an eerie and thought-provoking short film about a seemingly unremarkable man (Ryan McCarthy, Elementary) spending a day taking an increasingly bizarre test at an unknown facility. Throughout his day, he interacts with the odd, rather detached employees guiding him through his test in increasingly unique ways, though Lifton never truly spills the beans as the test's intentions and length are obscured throughout.
Lifton, a gifted composer helming his first film, has crafted a rather remarkable 10-minute short film that envelopes you with this weird duality of claustrophobia meets intimacy. As the subject, McCarthy is alternately quiet in his confidence yet also serving up hints of vulnerability. Mickey O'Hagan, familiar to audiences this year from her great turn Tangerine, one of The Independent Critic's top ten films of 2015, is similarly terrific here as the Manager, while the remainder of the film's ensemble cast all shine.
Test has proven to be wildly popular on the film festival circuit with appearances at dozens of fests and prizes at the Art of Brooklyn Film Festival, Milwaukee Short Film Festival, NYC Chain Film Festival and others. Truthfully, I'm surprised it didn't pick up even more prizes along the way.
Mike Simpson's lensing is creepy and atmospheric, while Alan Lampert's production design gives the an aura of paranoia with no real hint of why we're being paranoid.
There are films that you find yourself wanting to watch over and over again. Test is such a film, partly because it's such a well made film and partly because my silly little mind wants to keep trying to figure it all out.
If you get a chance, check it out for yourself at a film festival near you.