It seems as if so many films created for a teenage audience tip toe around the topic of sexual assault to make it more palatable. Shows like Degrassi or Thirteen Reasons Why depict blanket situations to create shock factor without actually contributing much of anything in the way of catharsis or awareness. Pippa Bianco’s Share is a startling yet realistic depiction of sexual assault in the digital age. It manages to execute its story without falling into any of the cringe-worthy cliches common to so many teen dramas.
Share follows the story of sixteen year old Mandy (Rhianne Barreto) after she wakes up on the front lawn of her parents house after a night out with her friends. Lost in her confusion and lack of memory, Mandy fails to notice that she’s covered in bruises until a friend on the basketball team points it out the next day. The next morning, Mandy’s phone blows up. Each inquisitive text from her friends sends Mandy further into a confused panic. Eventually someone sends her the video that’s gone viral in her social sphere. Instantly, Mandy recognizes herself onscreen lying face down in someone’s bathroom with her pants half off. Someone pulls her underwear down further, and the video ends.
When Mandy’s parents can’t get ahold of her the next day they go through her computer and find the video. From there, the film follows the rough legal battle that Mandy faces in the wake of her assault. The film isn’t so much a tragedy or a drama as it is simply tragic from start to finish. It’s arc is subtle, offering only a slight change as the story gets more suspenseful before ultimately offering a deep breath of fresh air toward the end. Throughout the film, we don’t know who took or shared the video but we don’t need to. The damage is done, and Mandy is forced to take the brunt of the whole situation (aren’t teens supposed to be woke now? Guess not).
What makes Share more enthralling and sympathetic than other portrayals of similar stories is that it doesn’t overcompensate in its script. What it doesn’t say verbally is communicated well throughout Barreto’s chilling performance. Despite the lack of arc in the story, the performances keep you on the edge of your seat with the same type of suspense as a horror film. It manages to provide just enough catharsis to feel mildly satisfying but still tense and unsettling.
Politically, the film manages to highlight the problems in the legal system without taking the focus off of Mandy and her own coping process. This makes it far more touching because the audience feels Mandy’s own frustrations as if they were their own. In one scene between Mandy and her mom (Poorna Jagannathan), her mom admits that she questions whether or not reporting the assault was the best decision. She tells Mandy that she, unlike Mandy’s father, felt that she knew what to do as soon as she saw the video because women have to. Men have the privilege of not having to know beforehand how to report sexual assault. It’s a moving scene that verbalizes the sentiments of so many women without having to say too much.
The implication of Share is that it challenges what we think is best for a victim in the wake of trauma. It isn’t the type of film that should be casually watched during a movie night, but remains a critical piece of fiction in different ways. The film is a fleshed-out version of Pippa Bianco’s earlier short film of the same name. It was purchased by HBO and will air on the network later this year.
Julia Sachs is a staff writer at Grit Daily. She covers tech, entrepreneurship and entertainment news and is based in Park City, Utah.