HBO's Share: A smartphone video tears a teen's world apart

Review: Premiering on HBO this week, Share is a brutally timely parable for the #metoo era and the Instagram generation.


Watching new HBO movie Share is a raw, tough experience -- but so is the age we live in. This powerful drama uses a fresh young cast to offer up a thoughtful, compelling allegory for the #MeToo era and the pressures facing the kids of the smartphone era.

Share was first shown in January at the Sundance Film Festival 2019 and premieres on HBO on July 27 in the US. It begins with small town teenager Mandy waking up face down in the grass outside her house. As groggy night gives way to the cold light of day, her phone blows up with concerned texts. Her friends are worried about her. They've all seen the video.

Mandy doesn't even remember what happened last night, but suddenly she finds her entire life defined by a blurry video of a drunk girl swarmed by faceless, jeering boys. Torn between a desire to piece together what happened or just getting on with her life, Mandy finds events spiraling out of her control at school and at home as the spread of the video and photos seems unstoppable.

Writer and director Pippa Bianco marshals a naturalistic teen cast led by a sympathetic performance from Rhianne Barreto as Mandy. Bianco lets the story unfold at a measured pace, defying the audience's pained hope for resolution and easy answers.

The droning and tinkling score marries with muted colors and jumpy, jarring editing as the camera shoulders in among the kids. They're children, bored and playing, flitting from hard partying to lung-busting sport with the vigor of youth. They're old enough to drive, to go out, to get drugs, but not old enough to go anywhere better than a 7-Eleven parking lot. They're playing games with adult stakes. And thanks to smartphone cameras, their choices follow them even when they sober up.

But Share avoids becoming a cautionary tale about drinking and drugs and the strange urge to film everything. Presenting the kids with sympathy and nuance and carefully eschewing judgment of the victims, it feels like a smartphone-driven, Instagram-era update of Larry Clark's controversial 1995 movie Kids, which featured a group of hard-partying kids under the cloud of AIDS. Equally uncomfortable yet essential, Share is a Kids for the WhatsApp generation.

Bianco expanded the film from her own short, and the slight story does wander later on. But that also serves to evoke the hellish combination of trauma and boredom felt by Mandy as she hopes for her trials to be over. The second half of the movie feels as listless and dazed as a trauma victim, shrugging off the earlier scenes that play almost like a detective story with its piecing together of clues. But a case like this has no easy answers, no cathartic revelation, just ripples of shame and guilt.

The adults are at best sympathetic, at worst oblivious. J.C. MacKenzie gives a sensitive turn as a befuddled dad from another time and another world, initially just a blurred figure glimpsed through banisters and later unable to comprehend how any of this could even happen, let alone what to do about it. As a woman, Mandy's mother, played by Poorna Jagannathan, better understands the pervasive reality of sexual assault. But even in an age when predators incriminate themselves with sex tapes and revenge porn, she can't work out if things are better.

Schools victim-blame and parents abdicate responsibility with platitudes that nail the modern culture of non-apologies. "We didn't raise him like that," a parent says, echoing celebrities and companies and politicians claiming that abuses "don't reflect our values". Which only suggests that their values aren't what they want you to think they are.

In an age when sexual abuse is coming to light like never before, Share highlights the painful process of exposing predators and shows the brutal pressure on survivors of these painful revelations.

As a snapshot of our troubled modern age, Share couldn't be more timely.

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