I knew it would be cold. Dreary, even. The trailer showed as much: Brandon sitting on the subway, eyeing a woman across the aisle, his face expressionless. The dark New York streets, the plain and dull walls of his apartment, of his workplace. It’s a New York that seems nearly lifeless.
Brandon’s life is rote, routine. He wakes, jerks off in the shower, goes to work, looks at porn, goes home, looks at more porn. If he goes out, he picks up a girl. Maybe a prostitute. He gets off. (Even for me as a viewer, it was dull.) Living alone, his desires are hidden from others, and it’s not until his sister Sissy arrives that his world is shaken up. She’s in his apartment, even having sex in his bed on one occasion, and he can’t indulge in his usual practices. He’s pushed from his privacy, and he and his sister clash, their ideas about life at odds. They’re both messed up, from something that happened in childhood that is only vaguely alluded to by Sissy.
He does try to do it the ‘usual way’, going on a date with a woman he works with. They go to a hotel room, but he can’t get it up. It’s not enough for him; it doesn’t push the envelope. The downward spiral has already begun.
Shame is a film equivalent of literary fiction. I’m not sure how much Brandon learns, or if he’d ever manage to take any sense of joy from the world. It’s the kind of film that I’m glad I saw, but I’m not sure that I’d be able to manage it a second time. Maybe I will, after several years distance.
Both Michael Fassbender and Carey Mulligan were incredible in their roles. Fassbender’s performance was especially compelling. If I had a choice at the Academy Awards, I’d give him the Best Actor statuette. However, films like Shame don’t usually make it to a big name awards ceremony… the content just isn’t friendly enough.