On its surface, Share (written and directed by Pippa Bianco) resembles a few other notable indie dramas in the way it grapples with modern topics and cultural anxieties, specifically concerning the way technology can exacerbate deep hardships for teenagers in an always-online world. But what makes the film more distinct is in how it contextualizes these widely understood woes (think Thirteen and the more recent and fellow A24 film Eighth Grade) within the framework of the Me Too movement, which has changed the conversation around how and when victims of sexual assault can own and control their narratives.
This is the core struggle of Share, which follows newcomer Rhianne Barreto as Mandy, a young girl of color who plays basketball, has a tight-nit group of friends, and every once in a while enjoys high school parties where she can drink, smoke, and relax around her schoolmates. We see over the course of the film why these behaviors were ever so important to Mandy, because early on in the story, they’re yanked away due to circumstances outside her control. She wakes up alone on her front yard after blacking out, and soon a video and some pictures circulate the school and suggest she was assaulted, even though she can’t remember what happened.
When should a woman come forward with something like this? Mandy seems adamant at first that while she wants to investigate the problem herself, others in her life demand she come forward and seek answers through the standard rules of the justice system. Mandy isn’t quite so sure, and eventually the audience comes to understand just a morsel of why people make the choices they make in these types of dilemmas and why we should work harder to respect these decisions.
Far and away, the standout achievement of Share is its commitment to the lead performance of Barreto, who can and hopefully will carve a strong path forward in what looks like a promising acting career. Mandy is a fascinating character, not just because she spends much of the film in a quiet, stoic sadness that will invoke an effortless empathy, but also because she makes unpredictable (and therefore fascinating) decisions you may not fully want to accept at first thought.
A film about subjects as difficult as these needs to do hard work when it comes to shedding light on actual human behavior and what makes us tick. Many films do this, but they’re usually after more investigative questions surrounding the incident instead of the person: Why did this happen? How could this happen? What should happen to the perpetrators? What intrigues about Share is that it focuses on newer territory. The “I” of the assault. What should I do next? How do I tell my story? What do I share? Would I rather return to the life I had with my friends, or get to the bottom of a mystery that will haunt me in some way no matter what I do?
In the end, Share suffers from its own weight with an ending that splits the balance. It’s not a flaw that the film offers no quarter for anyone wishing the best for any of these characters, but the lack of any sort of traditional conclusion within the film’s own terms may prevent this one from reaching many people, unless they’re truly ready and willing to listen.
Another pitfall is the supporting cast, which is hit or miss. Poorna Jagannathan and J.C. Mackenzie do a fine job carrying the plot forward and reacting for Mandy during her more indecisive moments. It’s unfortunate to say that Charlie Plummer (Lean on Pete), who plays a key role as one of the friends who secretly longs to be with Mandy, feels a bit miscast. His presence in the film tends to distract with questions and theories that the audience will dwell on instead of the what may be the true point of this character and his place in this film. At times, almost too much is said and too much is obvious.
That said, Share manages to dismiss a lot of these problems whenever the haunting musical score returns to bring us back into Mandy’s raw headspace, an intangible setting on the one hand, but an all-too relatable crisis point of adolescence on the other. One that brings unspoken preconceptions about pain and trauma to beautiful, if not sometimes artificial, light.