Shame ★★★★

How does something that feels so good hurt so bad?

Brandon is trapped. He's stuck in a cage; he's imprisoned by desire and denied the human right of happiness. The horror of it all is that - to the outside world - he's 'normal.' The invisible walls exist in his mind, preventing any connection to those who might free him. Sometimes he can convince himself the walls aren't there, or maybe it's just that he's never known life outside his cell. But every now and then he sees the happiness people unshackled experience, and he wants it. He gets tired of this one-lane road and wants to know what it's like to slow down, or even stop. But he can't, and he's not quite sure why. He's stuck in a cage made of glass, and eventually people are going to see the mess he's made of himself.

While I didn't enjoy Shame quite as much as McQueen's earlier and more efficient Hunger, it's no doubt an extremely impressive follow-up. Fassbender is disgustingly gifted (not to mention a fine actor), and McQueen's direction is admirable. Especially noteworthy is the disjointed chronology of the last act - forcing the audience to pay close attention yet never getting too confusing to the point of distraction. I do worry, though, that McQueen might be forcing his long takes a bit; though his lengthy shot of Fassbender jogging at night was beautiful and appropriate, I thought his other take of Mulligan's diva moment felt indulgent. Still, Shame has a hell of a story at its core, managing to portray sexual addiction just as tragically and viscerally as any drug addiction, and creating characters that feed off the negative energies of each other without becoming caricatures.

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