Shame – 2.5 stars

There’s a moment in Shame, where a character says; ‘We are not bad people, we just come from a bad place’.  And the sentence helped consolidate for me, what was missing from Shame.  

We know Michael Fassbender’s character is a sex addict – but we don’t know why.
And it’s not right to say the film doesn’t have to tell us – because two hours worth of Fassbender portraying brilliantly an emotionally struggling sex addict, does not constitute a great film.  

Seeds have to be sewn for the audience, to allow us to at least consider what drives a man to perform the way he does.  The above quote appears some three quarters of the way into the film. Too late. 

Shame is the story of Brandon Sullivan, a businessman (who we assume is successful), who only has one thing on his mind. Whether is be physically, or through his computer – he can’t go many hours without sex.

As a sub plot, we are introduced to his sister Sissy Sullivan, a singer by night, who is struggling with her own demons – a relationship that is slowly crumbling.  
Carey Mulligan (as Sissy) is tremendous, and has been one of cinema’s finest performers since An Education in 2009, for which she should have won the Academy Award.

The director is Steve McQueen, who most notable directed ‘Hunger’ in 2008 with Fassbender as his lead. In both films now, McQueen has stamped his director trademark with long , unedited shots that linger on key performers , and which surprisingly become less and less noticeable as his films go on.

I found that there was a sense of Rainer Werner Fassbinder in ‘Shame’.   There were character movement and styles that harked to the 1982 film ‘Querelle’.  Mulligan’s singing during the film, felt like a nod to Rosel Zech in ‘Veronika Voss’.

The strength of this film is the performances of the two leads.  Fassbender and Mulligan give some of their finest work. The execution of this explicit film could however, have been handled smarter.  

Director: Steve McQueen
Rating: R18
Score: 2.5 / 5

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