Steve McQueen’s latest film Shame, which doesn’t hit UK cinemas until next month, stars Michael Fassbender as Brandon and Carey Mulligan as Sissy, a couple of siblings with a whole host of problems.
The main focus of the plot is that Brandon, who on the surface maintains a normal career and social life, is secretly a sex addict. We see scenes of him pleasuring himself at work and watching porn on his laptop in his shiny and sterile bachelor pad. When his sister Sissy turns up to stay unannounced, this highlights his problems as he now cannot hide his addiction and this leads to all kinds of conflict.
Although Shame is generating a huge amount of awards buzz and rave reviews, I cannot say it was a comfortable watch. It was compelling and enthralling, but at the same time some scenes made me want to look away (mainly as I was in a cinema). The performances were excellent as well as the direction, but there was no background context to the characters to which I could gather an understanding of their actions. The only dialogue which hinted at this was when Sissy assures Brandon “We’re not bad people, we just come from a bad place.” This seems to indicate some kind of sexual abuse when they were younger. Notably the two share a very open relationship which at times hints towards incest.
It is obvious that Brandon is unable to have normal relationships with women. One scene involves him asking a co-worker out to dinner where they seem to bond well, then later in the film he takes her to a hotel where he is unable to perform sexually, but after she leaves he instantly calls a prostitute to the same hotel room. The film contains a lot of explicit content, some of which was necessary to the plot, but some (mostly towards the end of the film) which I did not feel added to what the watcher already knew and bordered on pornographic…although I think this was meant to reinforce just how much Brandon’s life was spiralling out of control.
Overall, Shame was just not for me. I accept its artistic merits but the plot was too bare. It focused on Brandon’s addiction but seemed to just show a series of scenes displaying it, with no information on its formation or its consequences. Most likely a one time watch.
Rated: 18 (UK)
Release Date: 13th January 2012 (UK)
Director: Steve McQueen
Cast:Michael Fassbender, Carey Mulligan, James Badge Dale