“If I left I’d never see you again. Don’t you think that’s sad?”
A second viewing of Shame and what fascinates more than the subject of sex addiction is the fractious relationship between two troubled siblings. Brandon’s (Michael Fassbender) life is free of any emotional connection of any kind. That’s how he likes it. When Brandon’s sister Sissy (Carey Mulligan) turns up to stay for a while his perfectly ordered existence begins to unravel. There is a hint of some shared trauma in their past that simultaneously ties them together and tears them apart yet director Steve McQueen and his co-writer Abi Morgan never offer any easy explanations for their behaviour.
Sissy is first heard as a message on his answerphone calling to him, “Brandon, where are you?” Like a little child playing hide and seek who knows the person she is looking for is somewhere nearby. Brandondoes not want to hear this voice from his childhood and ignores her. Sissy is over-emotional, incapable of looking after herself and unpredictable. She stands too close to the platform at the Subway station, and clambers into his bed like a frightened child. She can’t hide what she is or how broken, unlike her brother who can go through the pretence of everyday life and never let on there is damage there.
Brandon seems to have the perfect life. He has a good job as an executive, a fancy New York apartment, and a way with the ladies. In fact he has his way with as many ladies as he can. Be they pick ups, prostitutes, or casual flings. If he’s not having sex, he’s thinking about having sex, or watching porn on his laptop, unless he’s at the office where he will use his work computer then finish himself off in the gents. He’s on a downward spiral though, his obsession beginning to interfere with the façade he puts on in public. This all leads to a somewhat melodramatic dark night of the soul on the streets of New York.
As you would expect from somebody with McQueen’s artistic background Shame is visually stunning though at times a little heavy on symbolism and occasionally overblown. In its quieter moments though and accompanied by Harry Escott’s yearning score it is a powerful study in urban loneliness with affecting performances from Fassbender and Mulligan.
Sadly not much. There are a trio of Q & A’s; one with Fassbender after a screening at the Hackney Empire in London, and another two done during production, and a trailer.