Shame ★★★★½

How are you helping me?

Michael Fassbender has a magnum dong. Okay, I got that out of the way. I really loved Shame. This was one of those movies I was pretty certain I was going to be really into, and it was just about getting to watching it. I could start with talking about the sex itself and how it's portrayed, but I am more interested in how Shame utilizes sound. It has an absolutely beautiful musical score, to me pretty similar to the classical score from At Eternity's Gate, but while that film used the music to emphasize beauty, in Shame the moments of music and even the moments of silence feel like they are entrapping the protagonist. (Also want to give credit to a stunning rendition of "New York, New York" in the film as well as one piece of the score offering the most depressing three-way I will likely ever see in a movie.) Entrapment, addiction, and misanthropy are three words that come to mind with me out of the gate with this film. Even if I think the character of Brandon might not describe himself as a misanthrope, he lives his life with such a reckless abandon. Naked, jerking off, thinking about sex, or having sex whenever possible. It has a hold on his life, and it feels as though nothing else matters. Fassbender, as well as Carey Mulligan, are both fantastic in the film. Whatever affluent lifestyles they seem to afford, it does nothing for them. This never reeks of privilege, it feels like a mix of hopelessness and wandering that I think anyone can in some way relate to. Whether something like sex, or drugs, or food, all of us have something we cram into our bodies to help us avoid looking at the void. A search for momentary release that makes us forget about whatever is going on in our lives or the world around us that we don't like. Shame finds its power in analyzing this from an alternative, yet somehow universal lens. The tragedy of Brandon could feel too real for anyone. Overcoming adversity is easier said than done, and even if some of us have the chance to realize the thing crippling our lives, it's up in the air if we will or even can do something about it. What if we push away the world and those that seem to care at least somewhat about us? If we can't care, and no one cares for us, what is left? By its end, it isn't as though things seem hopeless for Brandon, they just are up in the air. Will he beat it, or will be keep acting on his impulses, keeping his addiction nothing more than a hidden, titular Shame? With that great score, unforgettable lead performances, and stellar direction from Steve McQueen, this is a cold, unnerving experience. Not bad people, just ones from a bad place.


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