Sundance Review: “Share”

After discovering a disturbing video from a night she doesn’t remember, sixteen-year-old Mandy must try to figure out what happened and how to navigate the escalating fallout.

by Mark Elijah Rosenberg

Images drift and blur, ’til it’s hard to tell what you’re looking at. Colorful lights phase on and off, ’til it almost becomes hypnotic. There’s a subtle but disturbing difference between the varied chiaroscuro effects: between the dreamlike innocence of night time car rides in the rain and the nightmarish depravity of grainy illicit cellphone videos, the pulsating LEDs meant to conjure a mnemonic distinction between the two. Writer-director Pippa Bianco’s Share, which premiered at Sundance today, evocatively deconstructs the nature of imagery in the age of ubiquitous media—the form of the film enriches the themes of objective truth and memory. But of course the film goes much deeper, as well.

The tragedy in Share goes beyond the question of whether Mandy was sexually assaulted (in my opinion, the filmmakers make it fully clear that she was, though certain characters in the story may doubt or dismiss the events); the bigger issue for her and our society is that damage is wrought upon her either way, and many times over—once with the initial violation; over and over again in reliving the experience via media; and in perpetuity via the destruction of her social group, tearing apart her friends and family. And this is the complex moral terrain uniquely explored by this powerful film: Mandy doesn’t want to expose the incident; she doesn’t want to be treated differently; she wants to try to move on, because she is innately aware from the beginning that little good can come of further investigation. The stunning performances by Rhianne Barreto (as Mandy), Poorna Jagannathan and J.C. MacKenzie (as her parents) demonstrate the shades of awareness and moral objectives raised in this fraught circumstance. It’s easy for a more naive character to think there will be punishment for the perpetrators, justice served, perhaps stopping further abuses by these boys and maybe others. But as the story plays out, just as Mandy suspects, things only get worse for her.

Share plays like a realist horror film, as Bianco masterfully withholds and unfurls information, builds suspicion among former friends, and imbues formerly neutral spaces with an air of danger—all just as it would be for the victim of a violent crime. Often scenes cut away abruptly at what might appear to be the emotional climax of the moment, as Bianco builds greater and greater tension without giving the audience the easy release. The he-said-she-said details, the factual machinations of school discipline and legal proceedings, all of that doesn’t matter as much as the emotional ramifications for Mandy. Share isn’t just a film about sexual assault; it’s about how our society is still incapable of processing these events in a way that supports the victim. As such, Pippa Bianco has crafted an amazing work that is gripping and necessary.

Full disclosure: Matt Parker (one of the producers on Share), was a producer on a film I directed, and Rooftop Films has worked him and fellow producer Carly Hugo to make festival trailers in years past. At our festival, we showed Bianco’s short film, also titled Share (about a similar story), and I hope it works out such that we could bring this potent feature to Rooftop this summer.