Directed by Steve McQueen, Shame is the stunning and stone cold portrait of Brandon (Michael Fassbender), a Manhattan sex addict who lives a solitary life supported by a high rolling corporate job. Paying prostitutes, having sex with strangers and crippling his office computer by viewing pornography – it is clearly obvious that he never can get his proper fix.
After his free-wheeling sister (properly named Sissie, played by Carey Mulligan) crashes his bachelor pad, Brandon’s compulsive and relentless destructive lifestyle is intensely cramped as his desires and addiction recede into his very existence. To complicate things further, Brandon attempts an actual romance with a co-worker and fails to find the words for a proper conversation over relationships and ultimately is unable to “perform” once things become intimate. While Sissie dallies with Brandon’s married-with-kids-boss, his once insulated lifestyle is put to the ultimate test as he becomes more desperate by the day to feed his addiction by any means necessary.
McQueen and Fassbender team up to deliver a vile and sad picture of a man whose life has spun out of control. It is hard to take one’s eyes off Fassbender throughout the film as he constantly plunges his psyche into the depths of lust, self-loathing, and selfishness. As the film focuses mostly on Brandon and his disease, the film doesn’t so much tell a story but explores the essence of an individual fighting an addiction that threatens his well-being, his career, and his family. With a performance as powerful as Fassbender, it’s nearly a miracle that Carey Mulligan can steal a few scenes for herself, especially when she belts out a lovely rendition of “New York, New York”. McQueen’s stylish and boldly erotic approach to the story is a perfect accompaniment to the fine acting performances on display. Those interested should keep in mind that Shame is NC-17 and not at all for the faint of heart. Explosive, raw, and quite alluring with Michael Fassbender’s performance living up to all of its aforementioned hype.
4 stars out of 5