Esteban Gonzalez’s review published on Letterboxd:
¨We’re not bad people, we just come from a bad place.¨
It is a shame that Shame did not receive more love from the Academy voters last year because it truly is a powerful film with one of the best performances of the year coming from Michael Fassbender. This is the second time that Fassbender teams up with director Steve McQueen after his feature film debut, Hunger. That film opened up a lot of doors for both McQueen and Fassbender who have outdone themselves again with this raw and dark film about a man who is so addicted to sex and porn that he has completely lost touch with human interactions and relationships. On the surface he looks like a very successful man, living on his own in a nice apartment in New York and being congratulated for his work by his boss who enjoys hanging out with him at night and hitting on women. The viewer could assume that this man is very privileged, however from one of the early scenes we see how out of touch Fassbender’s character really is to human interaction when he hits on a girl on a subway who is feeling uncomfortable with his glances. She tries to avoid contact with him showing him her ring and that she’s married, but Fassbender completely misinterprets these signals and follows her, only realizing later that she is not hitting on him but rather running away from him. We later come to understand his character when he tries to go on a normal date with a co-worker and mentions how he doesn’t believe in relationships. Many people probably don’t consider sex an addiction, but McQueen makes a valid point here showing how negative and destructive it can be on a person by making them completely lose their touch on reality and human interaction. It is similar to Hunger in that the main character begins to lose touch with reality, but on a whole different level here. This film is rated NC-17 because of the strong sexual content, but believe me this is not a sexy or romantic film, it really shows you how addictive sex can be and the toll it can take on people when there is no love or relationships involved.
Brandon (Michael Fassbender) seems to have a very successful life living in New York City and meeting a lot of attractive women. He seems to spend all day obsessed with sex however as we see him with prostitutes and looking at porn in his computer. From the very beginning we see how Brandon enjoys his life while delving into this sexual addiction he has. His boss David (James Badge Dale) even warns him that they have found a large amount of pornography on his computer in the office, but concludes that it had to be an intern that was playing a joke on him because it would take a very sick man to have all that filth on a computer at work. He ends up congratulating Brandon on closing a very important deal at the office and they decide to go out and celebrate with the rest of their co-workers. When David tries to hit on a hot looking girl in the bar, we see how Brandon manages to flirt with her without saying a word and ends up sleeping with her. Brandon seems to have a perfect life, he enjoys the control he has over his life and the fact that he doesn’t have to have a serious relationship. However he loses that sense of control when his sister, Sissy (Carey Mulligan) shows up at his apartment and asks him if she could stay with him for a couple of days. They share a very strange relationship, and Sissy seems to come with some baggage of her own, but you can tell that they love each other in a very bizarre way. Nicole Beharie plays Brandon’s co-worker, Marianne, who goes out on a couple of dates with him and is probably the closest thing to a relationship that he has experienced in years.
I already mentioned how well Fassbender and McQueen worked together in this film, but I also have to give credit to Carey Mulligan who gave a very strong performance here as well. She doesn’t get as much screen time as Fassbender, but she holds her own next to his powerful performance. She even has a three minute scene that was shot in one take of her singing her own version of New York New York at a restaurant. She did a wonderful job here as well in this very complicated, dark, and raw human drama. The film plays out really well as this character study and explores sexual addiction in a very different light than most Hollywood films do. This shows you another side to sex and pornography in a very dark light. I think it will play out as a cult film in the same way Requiem for a Dream did. This film delves more on sexual addiction while the other one had to do more with drug addiction. I still can’t believe Fassbender and Mulligan didn’t receive Academy nominations for their strong performances here. This is a very powerful film, but probably not for all considering the dark subject matter.