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Shame

by

Jeff Nelson

Viewers should be aware that this film isn't for everyone and is sure to not be popular with mainstream audiences.

Shame
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The film industry has marked the NC-17 rating with the identity of being the "kiss of death." For those who don't know much about this rating, it means that no admittance for persons under the age of 18 is allowed. Ever since the disaster known as Showgirls was released, film studios have avoided the NC-17 rating as if it's the plague. Shame received an NC-17 rating for its explicit sexual content. However, it's all relevant to the story and the true core of the movie wouldn't deliver as much of a punch without it. Fortunately, Fox Searchlight released it into the theaters it could with the NC-17 rating. While the rating already dooms it to a bad box office, I'm very glad that the decision was made to distribute the film as it's meant to be seen.

Thirtysomething New Yorker Brandon is outwardly reserved, but inside is seething with an overwhelming sexual addiction. When his emotional and much-loved younger sister invades his life, Brandon struggles to escape his self-destructive behavior. The topic of sexual addiction is a controversial one that is almost never deeply explored in film. Shame doesn't sugar-coat it or censor a thing. Viewers see deep into Brandon's addiction and all the horrible effects of it. There are more subtle backstories and subplots that go into topics such as incest. Many viewers may be reading this thinking that Shame is attempting nothing but to shock the audience as many other NC-17 affairs do. However, that isn't correct in the slightest. All of the sex and nudity is absolutely necessary to the plot. This film has a marvelous script. Each time that Brandon interacts with others or has a sexual encounter, we learn more about his addiction and aggression towards everybody around him. Shame displays just how far somebody with this obsession will go to get his or her fix. It works very similar to a drug addiction. They don't care about who they get it from, what they need to do to get it, but they will go as far as it takes to obtain it. There are times that it gets difficult to watch this film as we're watching a man spiral down into the darkness of his sexual addiction. Shame can easily be described as an artsy piece of cinema. There are times where there isn't any dialogue, but utilizes the talent of the actors in order to convey the messages through actions and expressions rather than dialogue. The ending is certainly up for interpretation, as well. This is the type of film that people could have a full discussion about to bring in different perspectives on the events that unfolded on the screen.

This isn't the first time that Director Steve McQueen and lead actor Michael Fassbender have worked together on a film. They released another movie by the name of Hunger back in 2008. They are an excellent team. I have enjoyed Fassbender in films such he starred in movies such as Eden Lake. His popularity has finally reached the United States since he has starred in movies such as X-Men: First Class as Magneto. Well, this is a very different role. Fassbender displays what surely is the strongest performance from any actor of this year. Not only does he deliver dialogue to perfection, but he adds so much dimensions to Brandon. Even when he isn't given any dialogue, his expressions and body language doesn't even make it feel as if he's acting. Fassbender is utterly in tune with his role. He definitely deserved to win the Golden Globe for his performance and even an Academy Award. Such a disappointment that the Academy didn't even nominate him. Playing Brandon's sister, Sissy, is Carey Mulligan. She is absolutely excellent alongside Fassbender. They're both captivating as they feed off of each other's energy on screen as the arguments and discussions unfold. These are two ground-breaking performances, especially by Michael Fassbender, which deserve quite a bit of recognition.

Every director has his or her style that makes them unique, or at least they should. Steven McQueen has one that not all viewers will understand. It's a very artsy and different one. It's raw and dark, which fits the atmosphere of the plot. Shame offers incredibly beautiful cinematography. The sex sequences are shot absolutely fantastically. They're breath-taking and show the true nature of the film. Steve McQueen is brilliant behind the camera, which is quite evident with Shame.

This is one of the heavier films to be released this year. However, both Fox Searchlight as well as the cast and crew took a bold chance with this. I find it to be horrible that Shame wasn't nominated for any Oscars. This film easily deserves multiple nominations. However, I'm betting that this is due to the controversial subject of the movie. This movie isn't trying to be as shocking as possible, but is telling a truly devastating story. It feels all too real. There isn't a single moment that the movie lets up until the credits roll. This is an artistic venture that doesn't show the joy in sex, but the despair that Brandon is attempting to cover up. Shame is one of the best films of the year, but is difficult to shake off. Viewers should be aware that this film isn't for everyone and is sure to not be popular with mainstream audiences.

My Rating = Four and One Half Stars

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