We’re not bad people. We just come from a bad place.
Shame feels like the forgotten child of the awards season and a forgotten film in general. It’s a shame as Steve McQueen’s second film is an intelligent, emotional drama that pulls few punches in its exploration of sex addiction.
Fassebender’s Brandon (with another strangely fluctuating accent) is a successful, outwardly confident worker who has sex with any lady that sidles up to him. When his sister Sissy (Carey Mulligan) stays over over his carefully controlled private life is thrown into turmoil as he contemplates whether he can have relationship with her while keeping his addiction under control.
The immediate problem of Shame is its content. How do you take a taboo subject like sex addiction and make it palatable? The film doesn’t downplay Brandon’s desire for shallow relationships or his preoccupation with meaningless pursuits.
Brandon’s wants and desires cripple him and the appearance of his Sissy speeds up his descent into the abyss. Fassbender is fearless in the role, portraying Brandon as a person who’s uneasy in his skin. His confidence in attracting women belies his hopelessness in having a relationship that isn’t based on sex.
Shame’s only failing, if it really is one, is that it’s not a film you’d want to revisit again. It may be artful and graceful in some aspects, but it also has its fair share of misery. A challenge to watch, but one a worthwhile challenge.