Shame is a powerful exploration of sex-addiction and relationships that is uncomfortable to watch yet totally gripping. It follows the life of Brandon as he struggles to cope with his sex-addiction and hide it from view. His sister, also struggling with her own difficulties, moves in with him, encroaching on his privacy and increasing his anxieties.
Michael Fassbender’s (Jane Eyre) performance as Brandon is exceptional. The journey of Brandon’s descent deeper into addiction is entirely convincing. On a date with a female colleague we see Brandon plagued with fantasy but desperately grappling with the reality of human relationships. It is here where Fassbender’s charisma in the role makes empathy with his character inevitable. Particularly in his final scenes, Fassbender is utterly compelling in showing the replacement of sexual pleasure with the desperation, anxiety and shame of addiction.
As sibling Sissy, Carey Mulligan (An Education, Never Let Me Go) captivates in a slow and tense performance of New York, New York that is charged with emotion. This, almost indulgent scene, is fundamental in establishing the difficult relationship between brother and sister, Sissy’s painful past and doubting but dangerously naive view of the future.
Director Steve McQueen (Hunger) excels in a number of stand out scenes, including both this beautifully filmed New York, New York performance and an anguished night-time run through the streets of New York filmed in a single shot. In Shame he has created a disturbing but ultimately sad insight into a usually hidden world.
Shame is a courageous, perception changing film that is gripping from start to finish. With a career-making performance from Michael Fassbender, Shame is one of the best films of the last twelve months.
VERDICT: ✪ ✪ ✪ ✪ ✪
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