matt qt’s review published on Letterboxd:
The way I see Shame is as a cautionary tale to all of those who live similar lives to Brandon. I can see this film possibly serving as a major wake up call to those with a sex addiction, when seeing how Brandon’s actions affect others. Many try to deny the status of sex/pornography addiction as a true addiction and that deeply saddens me. It is an addiction with many negative effects just like drug or alcohol addiction and more people than you think suffer from it. I think that this movie was great in depicting the difficulties associated with an addiction that many don’t accept as an addiction, and just on addiction in general. We see Brandon falling victim to the most primal of human desires, and it has a real effect on his life, contrary to what some would believe. This effect on his life is solidified with the last 10 minutes of the film. This ending broke me, knowing that what Michael has done could lead to something as extreme as that simply tore my heart into pieces. This event really exemplified the notion that most addicts don’t try to get better until it is too late.
Although the ending of this film was some of the most devastating cinema I have ever seen, the rest of this movie seems to zip by, never really changing its tone that was established in the film’s first few minutes. This film treats its themes and narrative with such subtlety, that when we come across the ending, it will hit many viewers like a truck. The simplicity of this film works well in trying to get its point across. While I certainly appreciate well done complexity in a film, when some directors try to convey a simple message in a complex way, the entire film can become muddled, with the original message possibly changed beyond recognition. With that being said, this film does come off as shallow with its simplicity. I understood this creative decision, but I think that Steve McQueen could have had a masterpiece on his hands if he had added a little more complexity to the delivery of these themes. Also, I appreciated the ambiguity of this film, but there is a fine line between being ambiguous to generate a certain response from the audience, and lazy writing. Shame rode that thin line for most of the film. Being ambiguous in some aspects, such as not revealing the root of Brandon and Sissy’s obviously strange sibling relationship, helps to let the viewer draw their own conclusions, but in other instances, it was excessive.
How could I finish this review without mentioning the outstanding performances from both leads. Fassbender's performance is flat out brilliant, and some of the highest class of acting I have ever seen, and Carey Mulligan's performance is outstanding in the way that she embodies such a unique type of character in this role. Honestly, this entire film boils down to the relationship between these two. You can tell that their relationship is a complex one and that there is a lot that went on between them before the start of the film that isn’t revealed. The personalities of both of these characters are explored through excruciatingly lengthy long takes. We are given a look into the true mundanity of Brandon’s life by taking a ride with him on the subway and following him when walking the streets. I wouldn’t make the claim that Shame is a deep movie, but it gets the job done in conveying an important message. With a truly excellent performance from Fassbender, this film should be on everyone’s radar.
Also I think Carey Mulligan is my favorite actress and I will forever be salty for her losing lead actress at the oscars this year