Playing in the U.S. Dramatic competition of the 2019 Sundance Film Festival. Running time: 87 minutes. Next screenings: Saturday, Feb. 2, 4 p.m., Redstone Cinemas 2, Park City.
The high-school drama “Share,” about a teen caught in a social-media nightmare, is a great idea hobbled by lackluster execution.
Mandy (played by Rhianne Barreto, a soul-stirring newcomer) is a high school sophomore who’s on her school’s girls’ basketball team, a tight-knit group who spends lots of time together, on the court and off. One night, after a drunken party, Mandy wakes up on her front lawn, not remembering how she got there, or why she has a large bruise on her lower back and a wound on her upper arm.
A day or two later, Mandy’s cellphone starts pinging madly. Somebody has texted video from that party, which shows Mandy on a bathroom floor, unconscious, her pants lowered to expose her buttocks, and several of her male classmates joking and laughing. Mandy tries to quietly ask around to her friends, to find out what happened, without letting any adults find out.
It doesn’t take long for adults, namely Mandy’s parents (J.C. MacKenzie and Poorna Jagannathan), to find out. Mom and Dad immediately take the case to the police, over Mandy’s objections. Soon the police are looking over several students’ cellphones, trying to figure out who recorded the incident, and whether there’s more footage that shows what happened before and after the events in the first video.
At school, friends try to be supportive, but aren’t sure how. Dylan (Charlie Plummer), who has been shy around Mandy before, tries to express his feelings for her, but something seems off in his demeanor. And Mom and Dad are more protective than before, with Dad showing more anger at anyone who gets near Mandy. (The fact that Dad is Caucasian and Mom is South Asian is never remarked upon during the film, which is a small step toward progress.)
Writer-director Pippa Bianco sets the stage for an affecting examination of the shifting gender roles of high schoolers, and how young women still must bear the consequences for the cruelty of young men. But the movie delivers every scene in such a flat, dismal tone that it’s difficult an audience to feel the strong emotions Mandy denies herself.
(There was another problem that may have been unique to the cavernous Eccles Center Theatre setting. There are a couple of scenes where the camera focuses on the texts Mandy is sending and receiving. From my vantage point at the back of the Eccles, I couldn’t read those texts, which I later learned were vital to the movie’s final twist. Maybe a reshoot, or some onscreen graphics to make the texts more readable, would help.)
Whatever the problems of “Share,” keep an eye out for Bianco in the future. She’s got a powerful voice, and is determined to use it.