Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Good People from a Bad Place

Shame is a brilliant drama written in part and directed by Steve McQueen and starring Michael Fassbender as Brandon, an every-day New Yorker who has an addiction to sex.  His lack of control over his urges comes to a head (really, no pun intended) when his sister Sissy (played by Carey Mulligan) drops in for a visit. Where Brandon is repressed, keeping inside all emotion and navigating life in neat grey sweaters and black slacks and living in his neat and sparse apartment, Sissy literally wears her pain on her wrists, cries a lot, and is loud, messy and indiscreet.  We never learn why Brandon is so repressed and incapable of emotional connection or why Sissy is so sad and suicidal.  In an effort to console Brandon, after accidentally learning of his struggle with sex, Sissy tells him that they are good people from a bad place.  That’s the only clue we have for the source of their pain.  And McQueen does not really let us know whether these characters truly get over whatever it is.  At the height of Brandon’s character arc, however, he breaks down in tears in the middle of the street and we know, at least, there is a wealth of human emotion behind his stoic facade.  And the siblings are survivors, even if they fail to slay their demons.  A well-acted, compelling film in its quiet nuances.

Note that the movie is rated NC-17 for graphic sex and nudity.

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