A rangy work that for all its flaws suggests a strong future for its tyro writer-director, “The Test” pushes the road movie into the upper reaches of remotest Peru and into dicey narrative territory. Filmmaker Judith Velez expresses a love of land akin to — and in some ways surpassing — “Brokeback Mountain” and, with co-writer Augusto Cabada, ambitiously tries to dramatize a daughter’s peculiar attempts to make sense of her troubled family’s history. Solid fest trek is assured, and Latin American markets beyond the Andes could be welcoming.
Having lived abroad for some years, Miranda (Jimena Lindo) returns to her picturesque hometown of Arequipa to search for her long-lost father Ignacio (Gianfranco Brero). With brother Tomas (Leonardo Torres Vilar) badly needing a bone marrow transplant and likely to get a good match with Ignacio, Miranda is particularly motivated to sniffing down the trail to his whereabouts.
In Arequipa, she forms an unlikely partnership with hydraulic engineer and dam expert Saul (Pietro Sibille), who drives her far into the Andean countryside where clues indicate Ignacio may be hiding. “The Test” is a title that not only infers the limits to which Miranda pushes herself in order to find her father but also perhaps the extremely testy relationship between her and Saul which leads the film into a dramatic cul-de-sac. It hardly helps that Lindo and Sibille, while they’re onscreen together, can’t work up many frissons of passion, erotic or otherwise.
If the film loses its way — only to regain course for a third-act confrontation with Ignacio that answers many of Miranda’s questions — it also conveys a sturdy theme that human beings won’t allow vast land masses and mountain ranges to get between them and the truth. Velez has found a metaphor in a sense for her country’s tempestuous recent history, even if it comes across rather uncertainly at times.
Lindo doesn’t help Velez’s cause with a performance that veers between bland and forced, while Sibille is effective in a radically different turn from his troubled vet in “Days of Santiago.” Production package, under nasty conditions, is first-rate.