Brandon (Michael Fassbender), a bachelor living in New York City, is a businessman by day and self-loathing sex addict by night. It's a mystery why he is the way he is because on the surface, he leads a somewhat successful career and has all the physical characteristics that a woman desires. His routine is thrown off course when an unexpected visitor shows up at his place. We soon find out it's his sister, Sissy (Carey Mulligan), and she needs to stay for more than just a night.
Michael Fassbender became a household name for movie fans in 2011 with roles in "X-Men: First Class", "Jane Eyre", "A Dangerous Method", and "Shame". He's popped up in smaller roles in previous years, but this was the year that really cemented him as a movie star. His portrayal of a sex addict in Shame is his strongest performance yet in my opinion. He sold the character very well. I found myself sympathizing with the character even though he made more wrong choices than right. Like any other addict, Brandon goes through great lengths to get his "fix," and he hates himself for it, but he doesn't have a choice. Fassbender wasn't given a lot of dialogue to work with and ends up giving a louder performance with the moments of silence. At times, the look on his face is pure "Shame."
Even though Sissy is not the main character, she gets the second most screen time and also has problems of her own. Sissy and Brandon's relationship is far from normal and at times it hints at an incestuous one. She is almost the complete opposite of Brandon; she needs attention and has struggled on her own for quite some time while Brandon just wants to be left alone. They both take out their frustrations on each other even though they share a similar past that is left completely out of the film. Carey Mulligan plays the troubled younger sister perfectly. I felt for her as anyone would with their own sister; no matter how many times they make the wrong decision, you still find a way to care about them.
"Sex addict" is a term I have heard a few times, but I have never put much thought into the idea or if it even exists. I mean everyone likes the act of sex right? Well in Shame, Brandon showcases a pretty valid argument that the condition is not something to be washed over and there are people out there with this problem. His orgasms do not bring pleasure and it shows on his face in several scenes. The depths he goes to are pretty deep and he treats his sexual partners like objects rather than people. Brandon is not familiar with romance or intimacy and when he slightly has a feeling one of those, he begins to struggles.
Shame is a beautifully shot film, but there is nothing pretty about it. Director Steve McQueen and Michael Fassbender collaborated for the first time back in 2008 with "Hunger", which is also a beauty in terms of film, but is also about not-so-pretty subject matter. Overall, I really enjoyed "Shame" even though it is not an easy watch and is probably the last choice when it comes to "date night." There is a scene at a restaurant where Brandon goes out on some sort of date with one of his co-workers that lingers far longer than any other shots in films these days and the conversation they have about the idea of relationships really made me think. If you think it's a "Shame" I just sided with what a sex addict had to say, just go see it for yourself.