Michael Fassbender contemplates his next fixPhoto: Fox Searchlight Pictures
Shame. Dir. Steve McQueen. Perf. Michael Fassbender, Carey Mulligan, Nicole Beharie. Fox Searchlight Pictures, 2011.

The controlled life of a man with a powerful addiction is turned on its ear upon the unannounced arrival of his equally troubled sister.

Michael Fassbender is *sensational*. In a portrait of one man’s slavery to sexual addiction, he wordlessly conveys the anguish, despair, isolation, and regret of one in the quicksand, even as he externally expresses the obsession, unreachability, selfishness, and hostility of the using addict. Fassbender illustrates both in a way utterly accessible to both perspectives, and he is deserving of every major award come springtime. He tells two stories simultaneously and with such intensity that it’s been over a week and I still contemplate it daily.

The film itself is exquisitely executed. Director Steve McQueen could so easily have allowed Shame to slip into a tawdry skin flick, yet he deftly shoots every scene to capture the emotional experience vs. the occasion of the physical one. In a world in which sexual addiction is cavalierly tossed about as an excuse for infidelity, McQueen shows us its true force, equal to that of alcohol or heroin, doing so with great and necessary frankness yet without glorification.

Carey Mulligan puts herself on the map yet again as Brandon’s equally struggling sister, editor Joe Walker never lets us outside Brandon’s mind, and composer Harry Escott deserves all the credit for keeping us squarely inside Brandon’s heart at all times, no matter what his mind or body is doing. Nominations due on every front.

Shame is a superior achievement, vibing on wavelengths similar to Leaving Las Vegas and Black Swan. It’s a difficult beat, but one that brings illumination and understanding, and should be seen even if only for the filmmaking. It is simply not to be missed.

Lisa Elin's Rating:

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