HBO's Terse Share Confuses as Much as It Illuminates

An original movie about sexual trauma doesn't take the easy route.


Share. HBO. Saturday, July 27, 10 p.m.

In an age echoing with the angry Manichean cry of #MeToo, HBO's drama Share is a puzzling artifact, less a shout than a murmur, taciturn to the point of confusion, a murky exercise in ambiguity.

First-time writer-director Pippa Bianco based Share on her 13-minute short film of the same name, which won an award at Cannes in 2015. I've never seen the bare-bones short version, but it sounds only tangentially related to HBO's bigger, longer production. Even the names of most of the characters have been changed, as if Bianco is willfully snapping ties to her earlier work.

This new Share is about a teenager named Mandy (British newcomer Rhianne Barreto) who wakes up on her front lawn with no memory of how she got there. But there are unwholesome signs: puffy face, dark circles around her eyes, ugly scrapes on her back, and a bruise inside her left elbow, the kind you get from a vaccination or a blood test or a you-know-what.

The next day, a video begins circulating among the cell phones of Mandy's friends, showing her lying face down on a floor, surrounded by laughing guys, as somebody pulls her jeans down. Who's doing the pulling is not visible, and what—if anything—happens afterward is unknown.

At this point, Share seems like a well-made but entirely predictable parable of the perils of toxic masculinity and strong drink. But it veers off on a different trajectory. Mandy doesn't tell any adults what happened and seems more curious than outraged, wondering exactly what was done to her and by whom. When her parents find out about the incident, she's perplexed by their demand for action. "We have to do something," insists her mother (Poorna Jagannathan, HBO's The Night Of.) Replies the confounded Mandy: "Why?"

It's only after her parents' intervention that Mandy's life begins to implode. Along with several teammates, she's kicked off her high school basketball squad when the investigation of the video shows they were all drinking heavily that night. The cops talk her parents into submitting her to hypnosis to see if she can recover memories of what happened.

Their inquiry goes nowhere except to the local news media, which shred her privacy. As her friends melt away—though some of them try to stay close, a glass shield seems to have grown up between them—her life devolves into nightly rounds of a car-racing video game in which she suicidally slams her vehicle into walls. Mandy seems as much a pawn of her would-be protectors as of her molesters.

At least, that's my understanding. Share is not always easily comprehended. It's got the shaky-cam photography and sparse dialogue of a prototypical indie film, along with fleeting, blurry imagery of uncertain meaning. This is all apparently intended to simulate the confusion and progressive withdrawal of a sexual trauma victim, but it does its job a bit too well.

Barreto, the 21-year-old actress who plays Mandy, is remarkably talented at conveying the stress of a character who listens much more than she speaks. But in the end, Bianco's script is just too terse for its own good. Share is thoughtful, but it's not entirely clear where those thoughts are headed. Give Bianco credit for making a film about a rage-inducing topic that doesn't shout; but a little less mumbling would have been welcome.