This film marks the second partnership of Steve McQueen and Michael Fassbender, but also Steve McQueen’s second stint at the helm of a film (excluding shorts, that is). His first tackling the extraordinary tale of the hunger strikes in Ireland, featured Michael Fassbender in the leading role. Again, Shame has Fassbender as top billing, as Brandon. Shame holds no bars and the depth and detail involved is not for the those who don’t enjoy graphic scenes.
The film opens on the regular routine of Brandon, waking up, ignoring the messages left by his sister and then engaging in sexual acts. Brandon is then called a disgusting human being, but this is during a meeting and not directly aimed at Brandon, but it sets a bar due to what Brandon gets involved in. He continues with this lifestyle, even sleeping with women picked up in bars in random places like an underpass. This lifestyle is all disrupted when Sissy (Carey Mulligan) comes to stay at his apartment for an indefinite amount of time.
Brandon has difficult holding a relationship with Sissy and hiding away his addiction from Sissy, as she discovers his porngraphic material stash and him performing sexual acts with himself in the bathroom, a certain strain appears, but then it can all change when they both realise they need each other. To say Steve McQueen’s focus during this film is Brandon’s sexual addiction would be wrong. I would say, the focus primarily would be the strains that begin to appear with Brandon and his sister, and his colleagues as he tries to engage in a relationships with then.
In a turn of events, he does attempt to have a relationship with a co-worker, Marianne (Nicole Beharie) where Brandon’s true feelings surrounding relationships appear, as he believes it’s a unnecessary institution, whereas Marianne believes quite the opposite, despite this, they still seem to have an attraction toward each other. He attempts to expand this relationship but cracks and then ends up indulging in his addiction again. This marks a downward spiral for Brandon, and brings us round to the ending, which was a shock and untimely, but it fits in with the mood of the film.
The film holds its own at just over 100 minutes, but it doesn’t feel that long. We see Brandon’s privatised life at it’s height, then at it’s seediest and the film starts where it began, Brandon on the tube, staring at the same woman, however it is left to the mind of the viewer as McQueen never lets on what happened next.
Set in New York City, some of the films shots are full of beauty, this coupled with the films score makes the film nigh on perfect. However, that being said, this film will be like marmite for majority of people. I’ve read over reviews, some love it, some hate it. I for one, love this film and just think the whole package is brilliant. Steve McQueen makes this addiction that Brandon has, hard-hitting, almost revolting at the measures Brandon goes to fulfill his desires. Carey Mulligan’s role was played to perfection (and as an extra she sings my favourite song), but I wanted to know more about the character of Sissy, my only imperfection would be the sole development of Brandon, but then the subject matter suggests why this was so.
My advice would be to take this film with a pinch of salt, as you may not like the graphic scenes that McQueen shows, but illustrates Brandon’s lifestyle, and this is what McQueen is trying to do, and the effect that this can have on his friends and family.