Sundance 2019 – Share

Amanda (Rhianne Barreto) is a high school sophomore basketball player who wakes up one night on her lawn after partying with no memory of the night or how she got there. Then a video emerges of her at the party with her half-naked and passed out. Needless to say, something terrible happened – but Amanda can’t remember what and can’t get answers from others. This damning air of uncertainty hangs over Share, the terrific debut from writer/director Pippa Bianco. It’s a tense human thriller that is eye-opening, handling the heaviest of subject matter without making a wrong step and never becoming bogged down by the shear weight of it all. It’s a marvel.

Sometimes you watch a film from a young director and just immediately go “I can’t wait to see 10 more films from them.” That’s how I felt in my introduction to Pippa Bianco. Her sense of storytelling is effortless, knowing what to give you via dialogue and what to give you via image. She is in complete control, there are no mistakes or hiccups here. My jaw dropped in the final minute. Bianco is a wondrous new voice I’m glad I got to witness here. The cinematography by Ava Berkofsky is just terrific. There’s a haze of 16 mm grain that hangs over each image, heightening the uncertainty surrounding Amanda. It is filmed like a feverish nightmare happening in real time, because that’s exactly what it is.

Rhianne Barreto is a tremendous discovery. She’s just so keyed in, giving you everything you need to know about what she’s thinking and feeling just with a look. She is just riveting, I’m buying stock in her. I look forward to the rest of her career. Everyone in this cast is just so authentic. You feel like you’re witnessing real conversations between real people that aren’t staged. Charlie Plummer is an actor that conveys innocence so naturally. Bianco knows this, and uses that aspect of him in ways that completely surprised me. That’s all I’m authorized to say about that. See this film, you’ll know what I mean.

The editing is wondrous. It gives Bianco’s film the feel of a tightly wound slow burn thriller. It’s fractured and hazy, bringing us closer with Amanda. Bianco will abruptly cut to the next scene with a jarring sound effect (the scuffs of shoes against a basketball court) to subtly heighten the tension of the work. The pings of the phone are always anxiety-inducing, they only ever deliver bad news. Shlohmo does the score, it’s sparse but exactly where it needs to be. Bianco also never shows the faces of authority figures like detectives and lawyers. I don’t know what it means, but it means something, it was a deliberate choice by Bianco. Discuss it with me sometime.

There’s a key scene that boils down the film to a some beautiful, sobering and damning lines of dialogue. Amanda asks her mother if she blames her for what’s happened. She doesn’t. Amanda asks if her father blames her, and her mother explains that he doesn’t, he just doesn’t know anything about this because he’s never had to. Damn. These characters did everything right and got nowhere. People around them have good intentions but no intention of following through with them. Amanda is stuck in a system and a world – ours – that does not benefit the survivor.

It does the monumental achievement of working in everything wrong with the justice system for survivors of sexual assault, the societal and community fallout for survivors, just everything wrong and backwards about it, a sort of all-encompassing treatise that touches on everything both macro and micro – and manages to put it all in there in 90 minutes! That’s just stunning. It should get a separate commendation for only being that long and having such great pace. I simply cannot do this film and its subject matter justice, but I’m sure there are plenty of other writers who can – seek them out, hear their stories. This is definitely one of the best films I’ll see at the festival this year, and will easily remain one of my favorites of 2019 as the year progresses.

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