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Shame - Film Review

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by Matt Elliot Taylor (subscribe)
"Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans." - John Lennon
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Copyright Fox Searchlight Pictures.

We all search for something in our lives, whether it is something unrealistic or not. Fulfilment is always on our minds, and as we think that maybe we do okay on our own, it can't possibly compare to the feeling of having a shoulder to lean on. This thought-provoking subject is explored in an upcoming challenging drama called Shame.

Shame is the story of Brandon Sullivan (Michael Fassbender) who successfully maintains a very private and secret life controlled by his overwhelming sex addiction. Brandon seems very bored with his day-to-day lifestyle, but keeps his drive alive with daily sexual encounters, wherever he finds them. His monotonous office job does not give him nearly the level of satisfaction his lesser desires give, but although he may seem to some as a predator of sorts, he is quite charming and attractive to women. Little does Brandon realise that it controls his life, until his free-spirited and wayward sister Cissy (Carey Mulligan) comes to stay with him. With Cissy's very carefree and childish outlook on life, Brandon must try extra hard to keep his private life away from his sister, but as tension builds both Brandon and Cissy will realise they need each other more than they thought.

This is the second collaboration between Fassbender and writer/director Steve McQueen, the first being the highly acclaimed Hunger [2008]. This time McQueen has co-written the screenplay with Abi Morgan (The Iron Lady [2011]), telling a story of a bleak descent within the soul. The script is casual in its presentation, but provoking in its message, raising issues of need, desire and companionship. McQueen handles the sensitive material with utmost care and a timely affection, presenting Brandon as some sort of anti-hero that the audience wants to succeed despite his sickening habits.

Cinematographer Sean Bobbitt has realised McQueen's vision and so, many scenes are shot in one long take, paying more attention to what's happening rather than how it is happening. With many scenes flooded with one stark colour (mostly red, yellow and green) it symbolises Brandon's changing mood, remaining subjective of how Brandon sees things throughout. An example of this is that any sex scene that doesn't involve Brandon (and there aren't many) is not shown. Instead we are shown Brandon what he's doing, what he's thinking.

By far the best aspect of Shame is a powerful and engaging performance from Fassbender. He maintains utmost focus, and is almost so intimidating that we wait for his nightmarish reactions is some scenes. Fassbender's presence really carries the film, and is Oscar-worthy. Carey Mulligan is also excellent playing opposite him, as the extremely irritating sister. What's interesting is that while these two characters are damaged and weak under the surface, we feel connected with them because of their guilt. Although their lifestyles are somewhat disturbing, we can relate to them in a strange kind of way.

Provocative, engaging and a little upsetting, Shame is a deep and dark portrait of a search for guidance and reason. The damaged souls that populate the film show us that they always need to be needed for something. The film works on many different levels, and contains a fantastic central performance from Fassbender with a strong script and thoughtful direction.

4 stars out of 5

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Why? A powerhouse performance from Michael Fassbender
When: Now showing
Where: Your local cinema
Cost: Check your local cinema for details
Your Comment
Hey Matt E!
I've been looking forward to this one. Thanks for sharing your review, you make it sound dark and gutting and everything I hoped it would be. Long live Fassbender. =)
Claire Coe
by Claire Coe (score: 0|3) 3462 days ago
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