Review by Pete Mason
“Shame” is a film that centers on the sex addiction of Brandon (Michael Fassbender) and how he has finely woven his frequent needed escapades into his life in New York City as a non-descript businessman. He has his regulars, his prostitutes and a keen eye for his next sexual conquest; he has confidence and stability, even if he has a passion for sex that few could identify with.
Enter his sister Sissy (Carey Mulligan), who throws his black-and-white world apart by staying with him (with no warning, aside from countless ingored messages) while she has some lounge singing gigs in New York City. She sleeps with his married boss and proceeds to clutter up Brandon’s well-groomed lifestyle of work, play and more play in every imaginable style. The relationship between brother and sister is one with a great deal of trauma that is dredged up, providing the root for an addiction to cope; Brandon does so with sex, while Sissy uses more drastic means when their lives entangle each other.
The expressionless stare of Fassbender is haunting; he can stare coldly offscreen, yet through the shifting of muscles in his neck and jawline, his emotional state speaks volumes. He was surely robbed of an Oscar nomination for this NC-17 masterpiece. “Shame” is a difficult film to watch, but is directed impeccably by Steve McQueen. The sex scenes are intense and far from vanilla. Each scene with a partner and alone hold a sense of regret in the emotional performance put forth by Fassbender.