What to say about Shame? Perhaps the phrase…Porn anyone?…is the most appropriate explanation for you, just so you know what to expect.
Brandon (Fassbender) is a successful 30-something guy with a seemingly perfect existence, a good job, great apartment, living in one of the best cities in the world (New York), but with a horrific sex addiction. Brandon spends his days and nights trawling for random women to take out his childhood angst on via meaningless and confronting sexual acts. The arrival of sister Sissy (Mulligan), who’s equally as messed up in her own right, propels Brandon even further into New York’s dark underbelly and the height of his sexual addiction.
This is an extremely graphic film. It’s filled with loads of full on nudity, awkward and uncomfortable sex scenes and just a tiny hint at the possibility of incest. This is not the first film I’ve seen to tackle such taboo topics in a graphic manner either, it is however, the first film I’ve seen that’s completely failed to deliver a point in anyway shape or form. According to Shame’s press kit this film “is a compelling and timely examination of the nature of need, how we live our lives and the experiences that shape us” – the only problem is this film doesn’t do that. Instead we just see endless and pointless confronting sex scenes – we get it, he’s addicted to sex.
Director and writer, Steve McQueen, fails to make any of his characters likeable or generate a feeling of empathy for what Brandon is going through. We don’t know what has happened in his life to make him act this way or what his sister has to do with who he’s become, he just is that way. This is fine for the first half an hour of the film, so we can grasp the full extent of his addiction, but then the audience needs substance, needs to feel they can understand why he’s so personally destructive, why he doesn’t seek help, why he can’t have a normal relationship with a healthy sex life, and that just isn’t delivered…this film is why, why, why, with no answers…totally frustrating.
The only upside to this film, if there is one, is that Michael Fassbender is amazing as Brandon. With barely any dialogue, he effortlessly shows a man spiralling out of control and unable to face what his addiction has made him, it’s just a shame (no pun intended), that the source material didn’t live up to his talent. Not even the brilliant Carey Mulligan can save a film this horrible, even she provides one of the most excruciating scenes, and it doesn’t involve sex, it’s just a horrendously slow version of My Way by Frank Sinatra that will make you shift in your seat uncomfortably, one man in the cinema actually yelled out “good God make her stop” and that’s without a word of a lie.
This film is not for everyone, in fact I’d go as far as saying it’s not for anyone, but maybe I just didn’t get this film, maybe there was a point and I’m just not cultured enough to see it. I’m happy to be proven wrong though, but for now I’m calling a stinker a stinker.
– Suzanna Parisi