Shame

I apologise for the lateness of this review, real life sadly got in the way. Moving on though, this film is very different from any of the ones I’ve reviewed so far, it’s an eye opening, powerful showing of the effects of sexual addiction on a man, and his relationship with his sister, as well as all those around him.

Michael Fassbender plays Brandon, a (presumably) well paid office executive who is addicted to sex, whether it be with prostitutes or just getting off to porn. He portrays the daily struggle he has to deal with due to his addiction, and the way it affects all parts of his life, including his work when he is told his computer was taken away for ‘cleaning’. He then hears the report about it from his boss Dave, played by James Badge Dale, and how someone must have used his computer without Brandon’s knowledge, as he continues to list a variety of pornographic practices which were searched. You see a mixture of emotions from Brandon as his boss suggests his intern could be the culprit, and how sick the person must be to look at that stuff, varying from confusion to shame. Dave is a slimey character, showing his disregard for his wife and child as he goes out with Brandon on the prowl. Brandon’s sister, Sissy, clearly not without a little baggage herself. is played by Carey Mulligan. She comes into the film when she announces she’s coming to stay at Brandon’s apartment while she tries to get her singing career off the ground, although Brandon seems to think she’s just there to irritate him.

Brandon and Sissy

The opening 10 minutes or so of the film set the tone, with no dialogue, just scenes showing Brandon going through a routine, one minute on his way to work on the Subway, dressed meticulously, the next getting out of bed naked for all to see and checking his phone messages. You can probably already tell that this film isn’t for those viewers who aren’t fans of nudity in films, since it has plenty, of both the male and female variety. The opening scenes let us glimpse into Brandon’s life, and how … lifeless it is. He shows no pleasure in anything he does, he is just going through the motions, the closest he comes to showing any pleasure is when on the subway, and he catches the eyes of another passenger, and their fleeting glances rapidly escalate until the woman, ashamed of the effect it’s having turns away.

The film contains many a scene some could find a little upsetting, whether due to the graphic nature, or some of the implications. Throughout the film Brandon and Sissy seem to walk in on each other naked more times than the average siblings would (Sissy walks in on Brandon getting himself off for instance), and what’s interesting is the coolness they have about each other’s nudity (when Brandon walks in on Sissy having a shower, not knowing she would even be there, they continued to talk despite Sissy’s fully naked state, with no attempts by either party to do anything about it). The director leaves it up to the viewer to guess as to what the past between them was, and whether that had an effect on one or both of them.

One of the most, interesting, scenes involves Sissy singing New York, New York, at a pace I had never heard before, in a club with Brandon and Dave in the audience. The slowness, and camera work during it really pull you into the scene, with the static camera just looking at the faces of both Sissy and Brandon, as the slow melody continues to play. At times it was almost agonisingly slow, with the entire song being shown on screen, but I felt it fitted in with the slightly arty feel of the film. A similar slow, lengthening of a scene is used later when you see Brandon take a lift, and watch him as it goes all the way up, with very little going on, leaving the viewer to ponder the emotions and thoughts running through Brandon’s mind.

The scene in which Sissy sings continues to become one of the most awkward and painful to watch, as after the song, which has clearly touched Brandon, during which you see one of the few moments of emotion from him. Sissy and Dave get off to a great start, and are soon exploring each other’s mouths in the taxi back to Brandon’s place. As they continue to get to ‘know’ each other, Brandon has to leave and you see another ‘slow paced’ scene, as the camera just follows him jogging along the street for several minutes. A dinner date later on in the film, between Brandon and a colleague (play by Nicole Beharie) uses the same static camera shots as the earlier New York, New York scene, and it does a wonderful job at showing a true date, with all of the uncomfortable silences and awkward pauses you would expect, very ‘un-Hollywood’.

Now, this film may not be to everyone’s tastes, as I mentioned, it can have a slightly ‘arty’ feel, especially at times, and the general theme and content of the film are not something everyone might be comfortable watching, it’s certainly not something I’d want to watch with my parents!

The Good:

  • Excellent acting from both leads
  • A bold look at a subject not often covered
  • Does a good job of making what’s seen on screen very ‘real’

The Bad:

  • The entire subject matter may put some off straight away
  • Can feel a little too slow at times

Should I watch it?

This one is tricky. It is very dependant on whether you like the style of film and are ok with the content, if you do then it’s a great film, showcasing good acting, and some wonderfully real scenes. I would personally recommend it, since both Fassbender and Mulligan portray siblings with a very real love/hate relationship, and it explores an aspect of life rarely looked at.

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