Director: Steve McQueen
Starring: Michael Fassbender, Carey Mulligan, James Badge Dale and Nicole Beharie
Shame didn’t hold my attention until about the 15 minute mark when Brandon’s (Michael Fassbender) sister played by Carey Mulligan unexpectedly shows up at his New York apartment and throws a wrench into his cycle of sex addiction. Up until then, the movie is a vignette of emotionally numbing sex acts and shameless shots of Fassbender’s dangling member. My renewed interest wasn’t because of Mulligan’s performance either, she’s not nearly as captivating as the lingering camera shots would suggest. But her character’s off kilter presence is an inadvertent catalyst for Brandon to confront his inner demons, giving this movie a compelling, worthwhile direction. Having said that some of the strongest scenes didn’t involve Mulligan but with Nicole Beharie (Sleepy Hollow). To a certain extent, Beharie’s character sees through the cracks in Brandon’s dysfunctional façade and calls him out on his bullshit in a way that he can respect. She could be the healthiest if not, least destructive relationship in his life if he can only overcome his debilitating aversion to real intimacy.
Steven McQueen’s directorial choices such as slightly going out of focus at Brandon’s moment of climax and objectifying tertiary characters through framing help shape this movie into a thought provoking art film instead of a sensationalistic attempt at one. A technique McQueen uses to intensify the isolating nature of addiction is by confining Brandon; within his apartment, in a subway train, between the streets of New York and towering skyscrapers. This subtle approach doesn’t become evident until one of the final scenes. In their second of three collaborations so far, McQueen has demonstrated a knack for bringing out the very best in Fassbender, a consistently good actor. The lead performance aside, it’s a bit of an overstatement to say Shame is a powerful film rather it’s an unrelenting look beneath the covers of a highly disturbed sex addict.