Before Steve McQueen won big with “12 Years a Slave”, he made headlines for his racy film about sex-addiction. Starring Michael Fassbender and Carey Mulligan as two siblings who are dealing with a multitude of problems, “Shame” looks at the racier sides of mental disorder. Although few saw the film in the U.S. due to the NC-17 rating it got, it’s nonetheless a great film that is a complex and astounding look at addiction.
Michael Fassbender plays Brandon, a NYC executive who lives a picturesque life. With a great job and apartment, the handsome man seemingly has it all. As his sister, Sissy, pesters him to call her back, you see him having sex and masturbating frequently. Eventually she comes to his apartment uninvited and says she’s going to stay, much to Brandon’s disdain.
Throughout the film it becomes evident that Both Brandon and Sissy have issues. Brandon has a lot of porn and sex toys, and struggles to connect with women who he doesn’t want to have sex with. Sissy has depression and has difficulty dealing with her emotions. They both know the other has problems, but refuses to say anything about it.
The film offers a different look at addiction, as most people don’t even count sex addiction as a real thing. It shows a man who doesn’t rape or victimize women, but also has trouble seeing them as humans rather than sexual objects. Michael Fassbender delivers a stellar performance in all this, displaying the pain and desire subtly, but making the emotion evident.
Carey Mulligan as Sissy also offers another side of the situation, playing the loving sister who wants to help herself and brother, but is unable to do anything. She also helps show how Brandon sees women, he refuses to show her affection and treats her as nothing but a stranger to the point where she tries to kill herself.
The desolate and bleak surroundings of New York show the loneliness and bleak feeling that Brandon feels, and often times how lost he is. McQueen also shows how unhappy he is in his general life through his job and his home-life.
“Shame” is a rare honest film, that shows a part of humanity that is rarely shown through traditional media, and aided by Fassbender and Mulligan, shows these sides in beautifully dark performances.