Shame (2011)

Brandon (Michael Fassbender) is an affluent, attractive thirty-something living on his own in New York. He is also a sex addict. Having customised a lifestyle which allows him to work around his compulsions, Brandon has found ways to sate his sexual appetite whether at work, at home or on a night out with his unsuspecting workmates and adulterer boss (James Badge Dale). Into this meticulously rehearsed charade walks sister Sissy (Carey Mulligan), the yin to Brandon’s yang, whose arrival marks the beginning of a downfall which will impact both of them equally.

A film centring on sex addiction was never going to be an easy sell. Their second collaboration since 2008’s Hunger, Steve McQueen and Michael Fassbender refuse to shy away from their chosen subject matter, wearing their NC-17 certificate as a badge of honour as they broach this enduring taboo head on, decreeing nothing off limits in their endeavour to do justice to something others might exploit. From a set of artfully crumpled bedsheets rises a naked Fassbender, baiting audiences to compose themselves, allowing the the filmmakers to press on in the knowledge that audiences are over any initial embarrassment.

McQueen’s visuals are striking in their subtlety, the camera allowed to linger on the minutea of Brandon’s life as he waits for his next hit, score, conquest. The character sleepwalks through life, enlivened only when finally introduced to a woman as interested in intellectual intercourse as she is sex. Their interactions are effortless, charming, as Fassbender is allowed to breathe some life into his troubled soul, a fleeting moment of banter with a sullied waiter hinting at a personality we are suddenly reluctant to see go to waste.

Mulligan’s Sissy, meanwhile, externalises where her brother internalises, ending his practices calm with a whirlwind of emotion and idiosyncrasies. Introduced as an incessant presence on Brandon’s answering machine, it’s not long until Sissy runs out of patience and arrives not so much on his doorstep as in his shower. While Mulligan’s performance might be every bit as naked as Fassbender’s, a second act Blues rendition of New York, New York belies a vulnerability and inner emptiness that no amount of gratuitous nudity could ever hope to truly express.

Beautifully ugly, passively provocative and quietly confident, Shame is a movie which approaches a difficult subject matter with respect and sobriety. More a film about addiction in general, it is an achingly honest portrayal of a man struggling to control potentially insurmountable compulsions, a few last minute contrivances doing little to detract from one of the most powerful movies released last year.

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About popcornaddiction
I am a psychology graduate, a News Writer for HeyUGuys/BestforFilm and, most importantly, a hopeless popcorn addict.

2 Responses to Shame (2011)

  1. Pingback: January 2012 – Your Mom Got Chased By A Shark Once « popcornaddict

  2. Pingback: February 2012 – Wow, that was such an expensive looking explosion! « popcornaddict

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