Edward Mahoney’s review published on Letterboxd:
Golden Globe NOMINATED
Best Actor Michael Fassbender
Many reviews here struggle with motive, a seemingly absent backstory on Brandon and Cissy, comparisons between the two main characters' use and misuse of intimacy. Further critical reviews either praise this film as 100% character study or they also write that it fails 100% at character study, owed largely to the lack of backstory. Critics 'vent their spleen' in anger that the film is too painterly, too pretense and posture, contributing no sense of empathy with Brandon or Cissy. Well folks, I put it to you that this is not narrative, not a character study, not a film about sex, not a film like any that we've been presented in a long time. In my opinion, this is the Verfremdungseffekt from Brecht (google or wiki this, translation often presents it as "alienation" or "distancing" effect) and I believe that this is the byproduct of this film, to a tee. Our director McQueen has created something of an experiment in which the viewer is an unwitting accomplice, similar to Hanneke, in which we are given views into our character in his natural environment. He is not completely likable, nor is his condition. We are watching Brandon at his most vulnerable moments, doing things that (from the visual signals written on his face) he does not enjoy as pleasure but performs continually in the quest for satisfaction. And we're watching him, in his bed, in his bathroom, in thrall to these physical drives, and we watch him again struggling, we're starting to think that it's a little uncomfortable to see this man, who is meant to be a success in our society, as he betrays our expectations of him over and over again. Does this sound like how you view an alcoholic or drug addict? Why are we watching, as in the theatre seat one thinks to oneself, 'yes, this is not a good movie for a first date.' I don't even know if I'd tell my mother I'd watched this. I'd be too ashamed: there. You were accomplice, you viewed passively and felt repulsion for your anti-hero.