After premiering at Sundance and screening at Cannes earlier this year, writer-director Pippa Bianco‘s searing drama Share debuts on HBO this Saturday night, and it’s one of the cabler’s best acquisitions in years. The film, which is based on Bianco’s 2015 short of the same name, was produced by A24, and yet that indie distributor put it up for sale, likely because it’s extremely unlikely that Share‘s best-case-scenario box office haul would justify a theatrical release with a proper marketing budget, given its challenging subject matter and lack of stars. Instead, the film has found a worthy home at HBO, home to the breakout new series Euphoria, whose audience Share is no doubt aimed at. I certainly hope that teens take a good, hard look at Share, which is one of the finest films I’ve seen all year, proving that the size of the screen is irrelevant when it comes to a good story. This one is utterly gripping.
Newcomer Rhianne Barreto gives an extraordinary performance in her feature debut as Mandy, a 16-year-old high school basketball player who wakes up hungover one morning on her front lawn, with no memory of the night before and a bad feeling in the pit of her stomach. It’s not long before she begins to receive text messages from concerned friends, who ask if she’s OK and whether she has seen a disturbing video that has been making the rounds among the student body. The video is ugly, but to describe it further is to strip the footage of its raw power. What some viewers will consider a crime, others, like the boys in the video, will simply (and wrongly) dismiss as a joke that went too far. Suffice to say, the behavior it depicts is not okay… but regardless of your initial reaction to the footage, it still doesn’t tell the whole story. The audience, and the characters, may make their own inferences about what happened to Mandy, some of which may be justified, but this is a story that twists and turns right up until its final minute.
The supporting cast includes Poorna Jagannathan and J.C. MacKenzie, who are excellent as Mandy’s parents, as well as Charlie Plummer, Nicholas Galitzine and Lovie Simone as Mandy’s friends, who she continues to hang out with despite the obvious tension between them. A confrontational scene set in a grocery story between Mandy’s father and the father (Danny Mastrogiorgio) of the boy seen taking advantage of her in the video is among the standouts. But Share is less about confrontation than it is about the things that are often left unsaid. The things we’re too afraid to say… or think… or feel.
Bianco has crafted a complex and compelling examination of consent and I think there are a lot of tough lessons to be learned here, especially by young men who mistake the lack of a hard “no” for a “yes.” Share is one of the best films I’ve seen about this kind of case, which I’m sure happens all too often in this country, and it speaks volumes without needing to say all that much. The last few minutes of Share are quietly devastating and pack a major punch, which is all you really ask from this kind of provocative film. You want it to leave you thinking, and I suspect that Share will do just that.
Barreto is simply terrific here, conveying our heroine’s strength, confusion, and her emotional fragility. Mandy has the courage to confront what has happened to her… she just wants to know what happened to her first. It’s the not-knowing that is eating away at her, much like the lead character in one of my all-time favorite thrillers, The Vanishing. Every time Mandy looks in the mirror, her eyes search her face as she wonders whether or not she has been raped, and her lack of clarity is heartbreaking.
Both Bianco and Barreto have very bright futures ahead of them, and even though Share is eschewing a theatrical release, both deserve major credit for this dazzling effort. It’s clear from some of her compositions that Bianco is a natural born filmmaker, and I was taken with how she used both light and music together. Speaking of which, I loved the disquieting score here from Shlohmo, aka Henry Laufer, which compliments Bianco and cinematographer Ava Berkofsky‘s imagery — imagery that is constantly punctuated by the shrill ding! of new text messages, each bell chime sending a chill down your spine that fills you with dread. Today’s teens have likely learned to live with that feeling, and it didn’t surprise me to learn that Bianco’s next directorial effort will be on a future episode of Euphoria, which is certainly fitting given the similar subject matter.
Share is a film I resisted watching for a few days before I finally put myself in the proper headspace to enjoy it, and I came away quite impressed by what I saw. It may play out like a digital nightmare, but as tough as it can be to watch, I hope you’ll give it a chance. And if you agree with me, perhaps you’ll share it with a friend as well, as this is one ‘video’ that actually deserves to go viral.