Shame (2011) movie poster

director Steve McQueen
viewed: 07/08/2012

This is the film in which Michael Fassbender plays a sex addict and Carey Mulligan plays his tragically needy sister.  Joyless sex abounds.  Full-frontal nudity for both stars.  Directed by arts-oriented British filmmaker Steve McQueen.

It’s about as fun as … well, forget the simile, … it’s not fun.  Not that it’s supposed to be.

Fassbender is as cold and aloof a character as you can imagine here.  Kind of a serial killer but with consensual sex and no killing.  Mulligan’s character is more on the heartbreaking side, yearning for Fassbender, her brother, for some love, some connection.  He’s just so dead inside that he hasn’t got one iota of feeling left for her.  Her presence in his life stifles his own sexual escapades, and her one fling devastates him on some level.  He’s ruthless and mirthless.

Mulligan, I thought, was very good.  She sings a unique jazz version of “New York, New York” at one point, sort of the film’s centerpiece, slow and central as it is.  There is a message in the plaintiveness of her expression of the lyrics.  While it may be true that if she “could make it there, (she’d) make it anywhere” but she’s not going to make it.  There or anywhere.  New York City itself plays a key role somehow in this film, with a goodly amount of location shooting, city vistas from fancy, high-up windows, and this cry to this city.  I’m not sure where to take that, frankly.  But it’s there.

McQueen has a keen cinematic eye, controlling the camera is deft, eloquent ways.  These feelings are not evoked by accident or failure, but by intent.  You develop a sense of some very sad backstory that is never rendered between these two New Jerseyite siblings in their loveless, soulless and soulful miseries.  But ultimately, I’m not sure what to do with it all.

It’s definitely one of those films that you don’t watch for pleasure, and in that sense, not one you’re likely to revisit.