Now here's a Holiday movie for the entire family: A 30 something New York bachelor, who is unable to function in a real human relationship, whether with a lover, friend or family member. He is a sex addict whose only form of happiness, rather satisfaction, comes from either watching porn or having meaningless sex with strangers/prostitutes. This movie isn't enjoyable in any form or fashion, but it deals with a subject that is buried deep under society's standards and should be viewed if only once.
Brandon (Michael Fassbender) is a man with no emotions. He blocks out his sister Sissy (Carey Mulligan) from his life because...yeah that's right he is filled with "shame". He needs his privacy to cover up his tracks of filth whether he is hiding a hooker in his stylish apartment or his porn on his office computer. He gets no pleasure in his perverse activities as they serve more like daily habits rather than special events. He goes on a date with a co-worker and the scene is full of awkward tension because he is so impatient with the dating process, he is more secure with the no nonsense, straight to bed formula. The tension is eased through the humour of the nervous first-day-on-the-job waiter, which is the only escape from depression and solitude we get in the entire movie.
When Brandon finally attempts to seduce his co-worker a few days later he is unable to become aroused, he has let her in too much on a personal level and is unable to perform. His addiction to porn and sleaze has raised his sexual expectations and he doesn't live within the realistic realm of intimate interactions. Later we see him get a hooker and perform one of his sexual fantasies, he has his orgasm and that's the end of the interaction. He returns to his hollow habitat.
His isolation is reflected on the unusually empty New York streets, seems like most of the film was shot at 4 A.M. The only populated scenes are on the subway where he searches for his prey. The film has aspects that the average male may relate to or understand, living in contemporary society where sex is propelled at the masses everyday through either conscious or subconscious advertising. In the Internet and digital age it seems nearly impossible to escape from. For the majority it rubs off them, but for some it may cling to and they can take it more seriously.
The relationship with his sister is more ambiguous, I understand if he is shutting her out because he doesn't want his perversions to come to light, but how they both act around each other is rather awkward and writer/director Steve McQueen doesn't go into their history much, but I found the fact that they were both comfortable seeing each other naked to be disturbing.
Fassbender delivers a strong performance that most Hollywood actors would never even dare taking and its pretty safe to say that he will be nominated for the best actor Oscar. He is a great actor that conveys the screen realism that De Niro and Pacino gave in the 1970s. Shame is certainly a great depiction of this taboo subject, but it is not fun to watch. I respect it, but don't admire it. I love these type of movies (nightwalker genre?), but I prefer them to be more stylistic with quirky caricatures and more of a developing story. Paul Schrader is a master at these type of genres, along with Scorsese and De Palma. These directors take a look at the seedy underground of the urban with delight and humour. Mc Queen makes you want to put you balls in a bucket of ice before slitting your wrists. :-(