Michael Fassbender, Carey Mulligan
Directed by Steve McQueen
Michael Fassbender delivers a bold and brilliantly immersive performance as a sex addict in Shame. He is so raw and riveting you won't be able to take your eyes off him. The thing is, you may want to. Shame, as written and directed by the British conceptual artist Steve McQueen – who teamed triumphantly with Fassbender in 2008's Irish drama Hunger – is thoroughly drained of eroticism. Despite the NC-rating and copious nude scenes, the movie chills you to the bone. As it should. Fassbender's character, Brandon, is a slave to his addiction. He'll have sex with anyone, anywhere. The computer in his Manhattan office has gone viral with porn. When Brandon can't find someone to screw, he hires a hooker, tries a gay bar, or just jerks off – mechanically, no heat. Brandon keeps his apartment sterile. The warmth of human connection is absent from it. That is until he gets a visit from Sissy (Carey Mulligan), his younger sister, a club singer in from Los Angeles. Sissy is needy, insistent. When she asks to stay with him, Brandon is horrified. Whatever their family history (incest? abuse?) neither Brandon nor Sissy can deal with it. Mulligan is in every way sensational. McQueen's camera holds her in relentless closeup as she sings "New York, New York" with an aching slowness that defies the snappy essence of the tune but speaks volumes about the pain she's endured. In a coup de cinema, Mulligan makes that one number into a movie all its own. Shame is too blistering and brutal to cozy up to. But Fassbender and Mulligan are dynamite. And McQueen is a born provocateur. There's no easy way to shake off Shame. It gets in your head.