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TV and Movies

In film Share, a video tears teens apart. It's a timely #MeToo parable

Review: Premiering at Sundance this week, Share feels like a smartphone-driven, Instagram-era update of the controversial 1995 movie Kids.

Sundance

Share is a tough watch -- but that's the age we live in. Premiering this week at the Sundance Film Festival 2019, this raw drama uses a fresh young cast to offer up a thoughtful, compelling allegory for the #MeToo era.

Small town teenager Mandy wakes 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 seen the video.

Mandy doesn't remember what happened at the party last night, but suddenly she's defined by a blurry video of a drunk girl swarmed by faceless, jeering boys. Torn between piecing together what happened and trying to get on with her life, Mandy finds events spiraling out of her control at school and at home as the video and photos spread around.

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 colours 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 vigour 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. And they're playing games with adult stakes.

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 evokes the hellish combination of trauma and boredom as Mandy waits for all this 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. Schools victim-blame and parents abdicate responsibility with platitudes that nail the modern culture of nonapologies. "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.

Poorna Jagannathan as Mandy's mother 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. 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.

A release date has yet to be confirmed for Share. But as a snapshot of our troubled modern age, the movie couldn't be more timely. 

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