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Did you know that social media fosters toxic relationships among its users, who only gain clout and/or material gains by performing inanely for each other? In this fundamentally unbalanced type of community network, individuals are complicit for as long as they allow themselves to be seduced by the illusion of power—wow! That’s the sort of asked and answered wisdom at the heart of “Share?,” an ungenerous techno-satire about an unnamed man who wakes up in an unfurnished cell with only a computer monitor for company.

There’s a little more to this sketchy sci-fi parable, all about a wary cipher, #000000014 (Melvin Gregg), who learns how to not only survive, but maybe even game his prison’s live-streaming camera network, which connects imprisoned users through their respective computer monitors. But only a little. “Share?” ostensibly has a dark sense of humor, too, yet even its jokes point a lazy finger at viewers.

“Share?” is only 70+ minutes long, and it shows. We see the movie’s world through the unblinking eye of #000000014’s computer monitor, the one he also uses to broadcast a live video stream from inside his grey brutalist cell. Why is he there, and who’s keeping him? That’s an irrelevant mystery, according to co-writer/director Ira Rosensweig and co-writer Benjamin Sutor. Rather, we’re supposed to focus on the patternmaking logic that leads #000000014 to figure out how to get attention from unseen viewers and earn points that he can convert into amenities, like food, clothes, or an inflatable mattress. #000000014 spends a lot of time peering into and through the camera frame since it’s presented as a monitor. His computer seems pretty basic, given frequent prompts like “Share?” and “Good food?” It’s almost as if social media and technology only grant its users’ limited agency, maaan.

Eventually, #000000014 starts to use his screen time to watch other prisoners, even though that may not be his decision. He learns to get new followers and more points from #006395873 (Bradley Whitford), an agitated paranoiac. #000000014 also becomes enamored with #038491828 (Danielle Campbell), a fount of new age wisdom and self-styled meditation instructor. Also, #052605011 (Alice Braga) is there mostly to provide skeptical commentary and emotional support for #000000014, whose personality is limited by his circumstances.

Gregg’s character makes the plot move since he’s popular among the prisoners. He eventually commands an audience thanks to #006395873’s sense of presentation/showmanship and #052605011’s social justice-minded conscience. It’s often hard to tell if #000000014 likes anything other than watching #038491828, and even that’s a heavily implied assumption. (Wow, look at her form-fitting yoga outfit.) That sort of behavior might have been productively ambiguous in a movie where the characters are more than sandwich boards for talking points that clash or build on each other. Unfortunately, opacity speaks for itself throughout “Share?” 

The trial-and-error nature of #000000014’s deductive narrative limits viewers to whatever we think we know. That’s only so interesting in a story that tiptoes around weird-seeming ideas about what commands mass attention these days. At one point, Whitford’s character reminds us that he was in “Get Out” when he asks Gregg’s protagonist why he thinks he’s so popular. You might think he’s about to say something politically incorrect, but he thankfully doesn’t. There are also some hinky assumptions about the hatefully self-absorbed #038491828, whose behavior suggests that her creators have some very general and likely tedious thoughts on social media influencers. #052605011’s token role doesn’t enhance much either, though Braga’s presence is the rare part of “Share?” that poses more questions than answers.

The rest of “Share?” is like a dreary adaptation of a very Off-Broadway play. It’s watchable enough, thanks to a strong ensemble cast, though the gimmick of watching an entire movie through the eye of a computer screen gets old fast. There’s also only so much on the filmmakers’ minds, as we can hear in the slogan-happy dialogue, which gleefully conflates wellness coach false positivity with tech bro disruptor sloganeering. An exchange about how “we can’t just keep feeding anger” because not everything’s “bad all the time” also predictably goes nowhere, presumably because meaningful dialogue within the movie’s Romper Room panopticon is impossible.

Maybe the key to enjoying “Share?” is to accept that it’s more of a high-concept joke at viewers’ expense than a cogent social critique. Maybe there doesn’t need to be wisdom in a black comedy where unnamed characters try to game a system whose main goal is as obvious as it is implicit. Or maybe viewers deserve better than some negligibly dramatized talking points about late-stage capitalism and the way we live now. If you’re looking for meaning, humor, or comfort, you’d best not look for it here. Take control, watch something else.

Now playing in theaters and available on VOD. 

Simon Abrams

Simon Abrams is a native New Yorker and freelance film critic whose work has been featured in The New York TimesVanity FairThe Village Voice, and elsewhere.

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