I found Shame to be a bleak, intriguing and tense film which stuck with me for a long time after watching it. It follows Michael Fassbender as Brandon Sullivan, a successful thirty-something in New York who has an addiction – to sex. Brandon is forced to juggle his addiction with his job and this is made even more difficult with the arrival of his emotionally damaged sister Silly, played by Carey Mulligan.
One of the first things that me struck about the film was how beautiful both New York and the internal sets looke. Steve McQueen is obviously a man with a great eye for beauty in simplicity, a trend that has continued from his earlier career as an artist. Another thing that struck me was Michael Fassbender’s penis. My girlfriend’s three word review of the film “it’s so big!” sums it up well. The film doesn’t shy away from sex or nudity which is refreshing in a world where 18 Certificate films are becoming much rarer. Many film makers see the 18 as something to avoid for financial reasons but Searchlight, the films distributor has called it a “badge of honour”.
Although the film focuses on sex addiction, it could be about any type of addiction. You are increasingly drawn in to Fassbender’s quest to scratch his itch as his life spirals deeper into depravity. You realise that he will do almost anything to get his fix and the parallels with other addictions are evident.
While sex addiction is at the forefront of this film I believe that its motif is the relationship between Fassbender and Mulligan. You are left wanting to know more about what lead them to become the people they are. They don’t seem like brother and sister and find it hard to act as though they are. This mystery is at the heart of the film.
Shame is a powerful and uncompromising film that delves deep into the subject of addiction and its impacts on us.