Perfection. One word to describe the performances, Steve McQueen‘s direction, Sean Bobbitt’s cinematographyand the film itself is perfection. Shame is the story of a sex addict Brandon Sullivan (Michael Fassbender) and alludes to a few intimate weeks of his personal life and the internal struggle he has with the façade on the outside and the reality of what’s inside. Shortly into the film Fassbender is joined by his vivacious and sporadic sister Sissy Sullivan (Carey Mulligan). While he attempts to go about his 9-5 daily routine which involves a fellow randy boss David Fisher (James Badge Dale) and a beautiful co-worker Marianne (Nicole Beharie), his private life is slowly drawn out into the open.
Shame hints at genius from the first scene revealing Fassbender splayed out on his bed. The blue in his eyes are paired perfectly with the blue of his ruffled bed sheets. And this pattern continues throughout the film. On the subway a young woman sitting across from Fassbender, Lucy Walters is wrapped in a purple scarf with a deep purple hat atop her head, which both compliment her mauve eyes. A heart-wrenching scene with Mulligan sees her pale white skin engulfed by crisp white sheets. This use of marrying textures and colours of the actors and their surrounds makes the film a visual delight.
However, perhaps the most powerful aspect of Shame is the acting. Fassbender and Mulligan both give amazing lead performances with equally inspired skills coming from James Badge Dale as Brandon’s toey boss and Nicole Beharie acting as Fassbender’s workplace muse. It’s not just the amount of emotion coming from these artists’ eyes, smiles, body language, breathing and silence but the reality of it all. McQueen has employed incredibly long shots to let the actors really develop their relationships not only with each other but the audience as well.
As the film progresses the relationships only become more complicated and intricate. From sleeping with a random stranger on the street, to imitating the violent sexual scenes he voyeuristically observed from afar only a night before, Fassbender becomes increasingly disturbed. And so does every one around him. It seems that rather than displaying the life of what one would think a sex addict is, Shame, as its title suggest, reveals the truthful and ugly nature of sex addiction. As Mulligan says in the film: “We’re not bad people Brandon, we just come from a bad place.”
Shame will be theatrically released in Australia on February 9 through Transmission Films.