The Intimate Horror of Share

The HBO feature about a 16-year-old who discovers her assault has gone viral is a stunningly immersive work.

Rhianne Barreto, 21, is an actor who’s persuasively ordinary as a teenager, but also totally hypnotic. (HBO)

For the 87-minute duration of Share, there’s barely a moment when the camera isn’t absorbed in capturing Mandy (played by Rhianne Barreto). At the beginning of the movie, when Mandy comes to while lying facedown on the lawn outside her parents’ house, the first glimpse of her exposes her fingers, alien and abstractly arranged among blades of grass. When she goes inside to take a shower, the camera captures her silently processing her physical state—the bruises on her arms, the uneasy jolt of realization as she takes off her jeans. It stays with her at school, where she goes to basketball practice and regains her composure. And it fixes on her face, later that night, after Mandy starts receiving a string of texts from friends about a video of a girl who seems to be her. Barreto’s unblinking, freckled face dominates the screen as Mandy tries to untangle what she’s seeing.

The most striking thing about Share, the debut feature from Pippa Bianco airing on HBO tonight, is how it subverts the logic of viral videos. The medium tends to dehumanize, taking people—complicated mulches of flesh and foibles and desires—and reducing them to the essence of a single moment. Share does the opposite. It fixes on Mandy as she realizes that something terrible has happened to her, and that videos of the event are circulating among virtually everyone she knows. It offers up her interiority, but also her experience. Viewers hear the frantic pings of her cellphone, sense how rooms get quiet when she enters them, feel the eyes on her at all times. Bianco forces audiences into an intimacy with Mandy that suffuses the film. Everything she sees, everything she feels, is everything that happens.

In Barreto, a 21-year-old British unknown, Bianco has an actor who’s persuasively ordinary as a teenager, but also totally hypnotic. As the events of the movie unspool, Mandy’s vitality seems to seep out of her. She’s almost entirely passive, acquiescing to everything that happens to her. The central question occupying Share is exactly what happened to Mandy that night, and yet there are no dramatic courtroom scenes or therapeutic revelations. Instead, the movie sleepwalks with Mandy through a series of ongoing events. Her parents take her to file a police report after finding the video on her laptop. She’s suspended from the basketball team for drinking alcohol. After one of the best players on the boys’ team, A. J. (Nicholas Galitzine), is arrested for “video voyeurism” for filming Mandy while she was passed out, she starts receiving strings of abusive messages. And even when she blocks the numbers, they keep coming.

Share is based on Bianco’s 2015 short film of the same name, which captured a single school day in the life of a teenage girl featured in an assault video that goes viral. The feature-length Share has the same cloying dread and claustrophobia, but it’s distinguished by how faithfully it commits to Mandy’s experience. In one moment, Bianco films Mandy’s hands from underwater while she’s doing dishes, as if she’s submerged. She films Mandy playing video games alone, and dully making herself a sandwich. On her little brother’s birthday, Mandy can barely form the syllables to sing when his cake is brought out. Her mother, Kerri (Poorna Jagannathan), is initially fired up by the urge to protect her daughter, but as the movie goes on, she too is gradually beaten down. Her father, Mickey (J. C. MacKenzie), has difficulty coming to terms with what’s happened to Mandy. “I know things like this happen to someone every day, and that they happen here,” Kerri tells Mandy. “But he didn’t know that. Because he didn’t have to.”

Share isn’t the kind of movie to clumsily advocate for anything, or sensationalize its subject (Bianco recently directed an episode of HBO’s Euphoria, which is a much less sensitive production). It acknowledges that the act of going to the police makes Mandy’s life infinitely harder, without guaranteeing that she’ll get any kind of justice, or even clarity about what happened to her. It understands the social dynamics of high school, and the agonies of being ostracized, or just being lonely. It refuses to condemn Mandy for anything, just as it deigns to show the complicated humanity of the people who victimize her. More than anything, though, it shows the horror of having a private moment transform into a public spectacle—the mounting anxiety played out in robotic chimes, the throb of humiliation. In committing to the fullness of what Mandy endures, Share takes a 21st-century act of exposure and flips it, filling in the background around the glare of a viral detonation.