Shame is not a film for everyone. On top of the NC-17 rating that is likely to scare off more casual moviegoers, the film’s subject matter, sex addiction, narrows the viewing audience even further. After watching the film however, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the nudity and sex is not pornographic, but rather is tastefully done and justified.
Director Steve McQueen’s second film, Shame, is a real and emotional portrait of a man overwhelmed by his sexual addition. For the protagonist Brandon, sex has taking over everything in his life. He spends nearly all his free time arranging sexual encounters with random women or prostitutes, and most of his time at work watching pornography on his computer. When his sister moves is to his apartment, Brandon’s routine lifestyle is broken as she begins to judge him for his obsession, starting Brandon on a downward spiral towards shame and depravity.
If you watch this movie, the first thing that should jump out at you is not the content, but the color of this film. McQueen color scheme of light blues, grays and whites throughout the film create a relaxed and melancholy tone to the movie, while not going over the top with color saturation. The colors seem to add an additional layer of sorrow to Brandon’s plight as he comes to see his sex addiction for what it is. Just by seeing these somber colors we already know how helpless Brandon is to his sexual desires.
The best part of this film by far is its characters, both how well written and acted they are. This may be a small thing, but the fact that Brendan and his sister actually act like sibling is something that I appreciate and rarely see in movies. In addition, both Fassbender and Carey Mulligan, playing his sister, give nothing short of stellar performances.
While I have talked about how the more dark and somber side to this movie, it is not without its moments of levity, most of which come from the character of David, Brandon’s boss, who is a hopelessly bad pick up artist constantly trying to cheat on his wife. Although his role becomes more serious as the movie progresses, he is worth mentioning, as he is a very well written and interesting character.
McQueen’s ability to create a film that is neither crude nor tasteless in its portrayal of sex addiction is commendable to say the least. The visual style is impressive and captivating, and when combined with Michael Fassbender’s believable and raw portrayal of Brandon this movie becomes a definite must see. That is as long as you are older then seventeen.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5