Setting aside the immortal debate involving religious and/or spiritual convictions, the best any of us can truly know is we get one ride for this particular attraction called ‘life,’ and we’re constantly encouraged to make the best of it. Along the way, we experience an untold number of highs and lows, we commit what we can to memory, and we hope against hope that – come the big finish – it all, minimally, adds up to something. That might take the shape of being fondly remembered by those whose lives we touched along the way, or – for those who’ve contributed more and continually ‘swung for the fences’ – it could mean being written about in history books. Whatever the case, I think each of us hopes we’ll leave some positive impression for the things we accomplished, be they big or small.
But the current generation of our technological overlords have kinda/sorta found their own mechanisms to – say – ‘cheat the system.’ They’ve introduced a whole generation of creators and consumers to the world of Social Media (capitalized, you say?), and – by doing so – they’ve loosed a whole new Frankenstein of sorts that – dare I suggest? – perhaps even the Lord Almighty himself never anticipated this. Whereas one’s life pursuits before this vanished in the ether, today they can be memorialized on platforms such as Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube.com, forever enshrined in cyberspace for anyone who goes looking for a diversion, momentary or otherwise.
Never content to let an idea – good or bad – go to waste, our intellectual giants figured out a way to monetize this shared reality; and such a concept is at the heart of 2023’s rather interesting Share? from writer/director Ira Rosensweig. Into this world comes #000000014 (played by Melvin Gregg), an inmate to some never-explained prison who figures out the key to improving what his lot in life has become requires entertaining others – via an unexplained video-link connection – who’ll them reward him in credits he can use for goods and services. Apparently, there’s no way out of this Hellish landscape, but that may not be the entire truth … only if one’s willing to both think and act quick on his feet.
(NOTE: The following review will contain minor spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of plot and/or characters. If you’re the type of reader who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, then I’d encourage you to skip down to the last few paragraphs for the final assessment. If, however, you’re accepting of a few modest hints at ‘things to come,’ then read on …)
“A man struggles to survive after awakening alone, trapped in a society connected only by primitive computers, where the ability to entertain is his only currency. The first feature film ever to be shot entirely from one fixed camera angle.”
In short: wow.
As good as Share? is – and it is very, very good – it’s still as incomplete and/or inaccurate as the YouTube.com culture it decimates along the way. I don’t think there’s any doubt to what Rosensweig intended here – presenting a bare bones existence honed all the way down to an obvious allegory to capitalism – and I suspect this award-winning writer, director, and producer hoped to inspire others to, at least, think about what they’re doing to themselves and the wide, wide world out there. Ultimately, the problem with Share is that I don’t feel it ever truly figured out and stated categorically who’s at fault in its grand scheme of things.
As #000000014, Gregg gives a superb performance as a man who – for apparently no fault of his own – wakes up one day in prison with a web-streaming camera focused entirely on his four walls. Slowly, he discovers that there’s no way out, but his surroundings and (to a smaller degree) his resources can be manipulated if he’s willing to work for it: viewers can express their appreciation of his antics (which, early on, consists of little more than farting and falling) by pledging credits through this computer economy. With these earnings, #14 learns he can purchase food, cloths, and furnishings, all of which is delivered via a portal in the back wall.
Eventually, #14 also discovers that the video system can be used not unlike a video phone, giving him access to both his fans as well as streams from other inmates. He’s eventually befriended and somewhat tutored to the far-reaching reality of the situation by #006395873 (Bradley Whitford) and even crafts a somewhat loving bond/relationship with #052605011 (Alice Braga), but one unfortunate and grisly demise inevitably has Gregg and Braga teaming up with the plot of enlisting the others trapped by this high-tech regime into a revolution. After all, if you can’t bring them down from outside, then why not try it from within?
There’s a lot more to Share – the film tinkers with friendships in the virtual age as well as occasionally commenting on the legitimacy of affection with the loss of human contact – and I suppose it’s safe to suggest that Rosensweig and company had an awful, awful, awful lot on their mind that they wanted to say.
Share? (2023) was produced by Traveling Picture Show Company (TPSC) and Wavemaker Creative. A quick Google.com search shows that the film is presently available for rental or purchase via such platforms as Amazon Prime Video, Apple TV, or Vudu. As for the technical specifications? While I’m no trained video expert, I thought that the provided sights-and-sounds were exceptional; there are a few special effects sequences that do give off some obvious tech wizardry, but I didn’t find them distracting in the slightest. Lastly, if you’re looking for special features? As I viewed this one via streaming, there were no additional features under consideration.
As groundbreaking as the structure, format, and story to Share? (2023) might be, I still find it a bit hard to conclude what writer/director Rosensweig truly wanted to say about our world. Clearly, one might determine that it’s all intended to be an indictment of where we’ve arrived at both culturally and technologically … but – at the end of it all – is it? Is it really? Or is it an accusation levelled at those who’ve figured out ‘the system’ and are trying to utilize it for their own personal gains? Or is it, instead, a condemnation of our society at large for willfully and deliberately going along with it? In the end, we might never know … and that’s also quite possibly what is being stated definitively. Each of us takes what we wish from this wild ride, and – believe you me – there’s likely to be a helluva lot of discussion when we reach the end of this carnival attraction.
In the interests of fairness, I’m pleased to disclose that the fine folks at XYZ Films provided me with complimentary streaming access to Share? for the expressed purpose of completing this review. Their contribution to me in no way, shape, or form influenced my opinion of it.