Shame

7 May

Director: Steve McQueen

Writers: Abi Morgan (screenplay), Steve McQueen (screenplay)

Stars: Michael Fassbender, Carey Mulligan and James Badge Dale

Motion Picture Rating: R

Runtime: 101 minutes

 

 

 

Shame is the story of what appears to be a healthy and successful 30-something living and working in New York. Brandon has a minimalist apartment, a good job and clearly an active sex life. That aspect is revealed within a brilliant 8 minute opening that includes an incredibly clever scene on the subway. Brandon stares at and then flirts with an unknown female passenger. She reciprocates and sexual tension develops. Their hands briefly touch, but she exits the train. That Brandon follows her, and the way that he does so, reveals all. Suddenly he is a predator and ever so slightly out of control.

From the mesmerizing opening Shame gets darker and sadder. Brandon has a sex addiction and he is barely in control of it when his estranged sister Sissy comes to stay. She disrupts his routine and triggers anger and confusion in what is a far more damaged character than initially presented. Brandon spirals downwards. He and his sister are strangely uncomfortable in each other’s presence. They are both damaged and seem to share a dark secret from their past. Whilst Sissy is expressive and loves too easily, Brandon is highly self-controlled and withdrawn.

Brandon’s sex addiction is portrayed carefully and sensitively. It is a passionless and robotic lifestyle as per most self-harming addictions. Brandon seeks thrills in prostitutes and porn, but these are meaningless and shameful exercises. He is falling and the speed of descent is dramatically increased with the arrival of his sister. Playing Brandon is Michael Fassbender, without doubt the best and most fearless British actor working today. He is phenomenal. He is in every frame and completely open. As such Shame is a powerfully intimate film.

This movie combines a lot of British talent. Carey Mulligan, a tremendous actor, once again owns her character as Sissy and the director Steve McQueen is frighteningly good in just his second full length film. His eye is sharp – for framing, pacing, lighting and for angles. The camera mostly stays away from Brandon as a detached observer, but then pushes in unexpectedly. Scenes of Brandon jogging at night and on a ‘normal’ date at a busy restaurant are perfectly shot. Shame is a sad, moving and thought-provoking film from a team of highly talented and committed film-makers.

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