Brandon is a 30-something man living in New York who is unable to manage his sex life. After his wayward younger sister moves into his apartment, Brandon's world spirals out of control. Shame examines the nature of need, how we live our lives and the experiences that shape us.Written by
Variatio 15 a 1 Clav. Canone alla quinta. Andante from the Goldberg Variations
Written by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performed by Glenn Gould
Courtesy of Sony Masterworks and the Glenn Gould Estate
Licensed by Sony Music Entertainment UK Ltd See more »
Brandon's life is almost perfect: a steady job, a nice apartment, good friends and women adore him. But something prevents Brandon from having a relationship that lasts more than four months, this incapacity is due to the fact that Brandon is a sex addict: to casual encounters with strangers and prostitutes, to pornography (both during and after working hours), to masturbation. And to some extent he seems to have his addiction under control, until her sister Sissy arrives unexpectedly looking for a place to live for a while.
British director Steve McQueen delivers a fascinating character study that explores how modern life (in which new technologies play a major role), increasingly isolates people and makes them unable to establish emotional bonds with others. In Brandon's case, a hunter in search of pleasure and not love, the arrival of his sister will turn him into a prey of his own emotions and will make him face his reality.
One aspect that has caused controversy is the way so raw and explicit to show Brandon's sexual encounters, however this becomes a necessary element, since it is through them that you can see Brandon's need and desperation as Sissy is more involved in his life. Special mention deserves the dynamics established between them, since it is fully nuanced and can even be uncomfortable to witness but is devastatingly emotional (especially in the last minutes of the story).
However, the most important element for the success of the film lies in the performances: in the hands of less committed actors Brandon and Sissy's conflicts would be unconvincing, but McQueen wisely chooses Michael Fassbender (both had previously worked together on Hunger), who literally bares body and soul to take Brandon's emotions to the limit and does it so impressively in a brave and courageous performance (and unfortunately the Academy possibly considered too intense for consideration in their nominations). Meanwhile Carey Mulligan proves to be one of the young actresses with the best prospects and acting range nowadays: her rendition of the classic song New York, New York is an utter delight as well is one of the best scenes in the film.
Shame, in the end (as in most character studies) does not seek to create empathy for the characters, but rather wants us to reflect and ask ourselves how we would react in similar situations.
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