Directed by Steve McQueen
Starring Michael Fassbender, Carey Mulligan and James Badge Dale
Set in The Big Apple, Steve McQueen’s second movie follows the life of Brandon (Fassbender) as he deals with sexual addiction and the unannounced arrival of his sister (Mulligan).
This film has been terrifically difficult to review for the simple reason that it’s partly fantastic yet heavily flawed, therefore it is very hard to come down on one side of the fence. But the verdict was eventually managed.
On the positive side of things, the acting is superb. Michael Fassbender is something else. His portrayal of Brandon is a lot more reserved than a lot of the roles we have seen him in previously and it was clear he was pretending he was okay to the world but inside he was falling apart. Steve McQueen’s artistic flair was greatly appreciated, call it showing off, but those long takes he does that last for minutes without cutting are very impressive. Watch out for a stunning tracking shot of a run through New York City which is absolutely stellar. A member of the viewing party however commented that artistic flourishes like this don’t actually bring anything to the movie, but that can be greatly debated. The sex is handled well and is almost clinical but this is not a sexy film because Brandon remains cold throughout and there is no indication of love in any of it.
But here’s the thing, the whole film comes across a touch pretentious, which people feel the need to fawn over. It’s not the fact that the movie is about the edgy subject of sex addiction, generally it’s the fact the film over indulges. Was there any need for Carey Mulligan’s 12 hour singing session of New York, New York? Arguably yes, but it did seem unnecessary. Shame relies on the concept, Fassbender’s talents and McQueen’s directorial skill. It feels like the story came secondary to this as the movie was just a sequence of events. Although maybe that was the point, a real insight into someone’s life?
Also, it does seem strange that it’s not even stated that Brandon suffers sexual addiction, he could be construed as being really horny! He doesn’t feel shame and his life is not exactly falling apart yet. But again, that may be the point: he doesn’t know that it’s a problem so it’s never acknowledged.
Yet despite the criticisms, Shame is immensely mesmerising, thought provoking and brave. People use the word brave with regards to cinema too often, but to have Mulligan sing the whole of New York, New York (although pretentious) is bold. And it’s courageous to have Fassbender engage in half of the things he does, but it serves a purpose. Shame is a searing tale of emotional pain and modern addiction which is more than worth seeing.
This film could be an 8 on an artsy day, but as it stands Shame gets a regretful 6.5. More story and less pretence would’ve been top.
Harsh? You know where to have your say Amateur Reviewers!