Shame ★★★½

“Shame” is an artistically stunning, intimate, and harrowing character study of a self-destructive, isolated, and emotional numb man struggling with a compulsive sex addiction. It´s uncomfortable and unpleasant to watch but also powerful, thought-provoking, and sincere.

The film has a distinct visual style and fantastic cinematography, which utilizes fascinating long takes, interesting camera angles, and brilliant blocking. I love how Brandon´s empty, numb and hollow life is visualized through colors, camerawork and production design. The visual storytelling is on point and the movie has a rich and nuanced subtext that is fascinating to analyze and interpret. If you don´t pay attention, you miss a lot of subtle details.

Michael Fassbender is a force of nature in this film and this could be his best performance so far (though he is always great). He is completely convincing as the charming and charismatic womanizer, while also perfectly conveying the pain, desperation, and inner turmoil of his character. Carey Mulligan is also fantastic as Brandon´s equally damaged younger sister Sissy, and the scenes of those two together are the highlights of the film. His sister is a threat to Brandon´s lifestyle and self-image, since she represents a relationship with another human being that isn´t based on sex, and he clearly can´t cope with that. It´s also clear that both of them share a tragic backstory, though it´s never revealed what happened (child abuse and/or incest would be my guess). In any case, they have a strange but fascinating relationship, and I wish there was an even stronger focus on that. I mean, the Brandon/Sissy dynamic is clearly the emotional core and most intriguing aspect of the film and I think that storyline had an even bigger potential. That´s my main complaint, besides minor pacing issues (some scenes are too long, in my opinion).

Ok, I also think that the ending is very predictable, but this doesn´t really take away from its heart-wrenching impact.

All in all, I´m not completely blown away by “Shame”, but it´s a raw, uncompromising, visually stunning, emotionally captivating, and haunting cinematic experience that comes recommended. It´s definitely not a comfort film, though.

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