Shame

Shame ★★★★★

This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

This review may contain spoilers.

This film made me think a lot about expectations, and how they affect our viewing experience.

I find that when we go into films with expectations, good or bad, we end up comparing the film we are watching with the pre-conceived idea of the film we have in our head instead of just seeing the film for what it is. Sometimes it can work out positively if you expect the film to be worse than it is, and then it ends up being much better, but more often than not it's a negative comparison. Either the plot you had in your head was better, you wish what you thought would happen actually did happen, or if it's a book you've read you will think about how the adaptation was different.

Usually I like to go into movies with 0 expectations. I'll watch a trailer once, if at all, and that's it. I try to avoid reading reviews ahead of time, and I try to keep myself free of any idea of the plot. I want to trey my best to experience each film in a vacuum and only know what I need to know before sitting down to watch. If I want the context or the history of the work, I will look it up later.

When this film came out I was 14 years old, and this was not really a subject I was interested in at the time, so when it popped up on my radar I brushed it off and didn't think much of it. However, in the last few years I've been seeing this film get a lot of praise from people whose opinions I respected, so I added it to the watchlist, and after Mia's spur-of-the-moment suggestion to watch it last night, I finally sat down to see what all the fuss was about.

My initial negative expectation mixed with the overwhelmingly positive reactions from the people within my circle balanced each other out. I sat down having no idea what to expect. The film surprised me from the first scene, and continued to do so throughout the entire 102 minutes.

The film does a great job at setting expectations and subverting them. The first scene in the subway with Brandon's attempt at picking up the married woman, subverted by the attempt going awry and the woman disappearing into the sea of humans, reminding us how tainted and dirty this lifestyle of his is. The altercation of him and his sister on the couch is maybe my favorite moment of the film just because of how seamless Carey Mulligan's transition is from laughter to anger, taking a seemingly playful scene and turning it toxic in a matter of seconds. But of course, the big one is the finale, when Brandon is leaving the subway after his climactic climax. We follow him as he sprints home, fully expecting the train stoppage to be the cause of his sister jumping the tracks because of the foreshadowing of her standing on the ledge earlier in the film, but when Brandon swings the door open to see her sprawled out on the bathroom floor, knife in hand, covered in her own blood, it absolutely knocks the fucking wind out of you. There's no way I ever would have guessed that was where this story was heading.

Aside from being one of the most fascinating character studies I have ever seen, and an incredibly rich pool of drama with a cast I could could count on only one hand, I found it incredibly original and inspirational. The way the story is told perfectly accentuates the subject matter, and so much of the conflict is able to be expressed without the use of dialogue. Not to say that the dialogue itself isn't brilliant in its own right, but with so much of the necessary information being told visually, it opens up the conversations to give a very in-depth look into each characters wants, needs, and personal values.

The real climax of the film, in my opinion, and the moment that made me truly realize how masterful of a performance Fassbender gave in this film, is Brandon's breakdown on the waterfront. That is the face of a truly broken and fucked up human being, and it made me feel immeasurably sorry for him and sympathetic to his character.

But what really puts the cherry on top of this already perfect film is the ending. Does he revert back to his old ways? Has he grown? An equally valid argument could be made for both cases, and that is what makes this such a powerful ending. Brandon is a very lifelike character. He doesn't just triumph over his addiction and ride off into the sunset; this is a struggle of two opposing forces that he must fight against for the rest of his life, and I don't think that could have been expressed any better than how it was in those final minutes.

Bravo Steve McQueen. Bravo.

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