From the off, even before the film itself begins, Shame has created a rather unique air about it. It’s clearly a film about sex, but the marketing indicates an oblique approach that has little to do with titillation. London-born director Steve Mcqueen’s previous film (his debut) was similarly adroit in trumpeting its subject matter. Entitled Hunger, the film won great critical praise and numerous awards including a BAFTA for best newcomer. This followed McQueen’s accolades in his previous incarnation as fine artist, whose video works earned him commendations such as the Turner Prize in 1999. Shame, then, represents a celebrated and unique voice, embarking on that difficult second record.
Brandon (Fassbender) is a relatively successful, mid 30-something working in New York. Something of a lone wolf, Brandon is perpetually single. This suits his lifestyle perfectly. His sexual appetite is unbridled, whether bedding dates and prostitutes, flirting, masturbating or facilitating any of the above, his actions are always sexually motivated. However, as an early comparison between Brandon and his obnoxious boss (James Badge Dale) demonstrates, he’s far from the slobbering slave to his loins one might associate with the term ‘sex addict’. Brandon is refined, charming and possessing of a quiet intensity that despite drawing people to him, threatens to devour him whole. His insatiable desire for sex is forcibly put on hold when his younger sibling Sissy (Mulligan) comes to town needing a place to stay.