Shame is a 2011 British drama directed by Steve McQueen, a young director from England (and not the legendary actor). It stars Michael Fassbender as Brandon Sullivan and Carey Mulligan plays his sister Sissy. In addition, it also featured James Badge Dale as Brandon’s perverted boss David and Nicole Beharie as Marianne. The movie was about sexual addiction and told from a very negative point of view.
And it began with Brandon Sullivan having sex with a variety of women and then walking to go to the bathroom as his sister leaves messages on his answering machine—which he never bothered to reply to. Eventually, he comes home after a night at the bar with his boss (and essentially having sex with the girl the boss was interested in). Once there, he walks in on his sister in the shower. Eventually, he introduces his boss to his sister at a bar (where she sang a very moving rendition of New York, New York) and the sister and his boss hit it off. They end up having sex in Brandon’s bed. Eventually he grows tired of her emotional dependency (and essentially takes out his anger with himself on her), kicking her out of the apartment. Both of them then have to hit rock bottom before they are able mend their fences and rise from the ashes like the phoenix.
Now, this film was not really a film in the traditional sense. It had a story, like narrative films are supposed to have. But the story was not the most important part. Rather, it was a psychological study. It was a study of the mental disparity of the two main characters, the emptiness with they both feel. In addition it’s the story of one man’s salvation. It’s the story of how he was able to overcome an addiction that had made him less than a man, turning him into little more than a shell.
The camera work and editing were both used brilliantly to show his psychological state and, to a lesser extent, that of her own. As an aspiring film maker, I couldn’t help but take notes. Every shot seemed to exist for the sole purpose of focusing on the minds of both characters. Most notably, the close up of Sissy during her rendition of New York, New York emphasized her loneliness and depression. The close up during her argument with her brother before he kicked her out was also very well done. In addition, the acting was also fantastic. Both Fassbender and Mulligan did an amazing job, without seeming like they were trying to act. Likewise, the supporting cast was also stellar (despite there being no need).
In the end I won’t say that I will ever watch this movie again, not because it wasn’t good but because the movie was quite depressing. Rather, the movie was phenomenal. It wasn’t necessarily the most accessible movie ever made, but in terms of acting and directing you couldn’t ask for a better movie.