Fassbender gives a riveting performance in “Shame”

Much was made this past year when Oscar nominations were announced and there was one notable omission in the Best Actor category: Michael Fassbender for director Steve McQueen’s controversial drama Shame. After watching Shame, I could see why it was a crime Fassbender wasn’t nominated. He is absolutely haunting in this film as Brandon, a man overpowered by sexual addiction and who is utterly devoid of having real human connections. Carey Mulligan makes a 180-degree turn from her role a few years ago in An Education and impresses here as Fassbender’s troubled sister who comes to town and stays with him. The film does start out slow but this is intentional to best depict Fassbender’s character and how broken and psychologically devastated he really is. Same goes for Mulligan’s character Sissy—and there in lies the siblings’ common ground of not being bad people, but having been emotionally and psychologically scarred from their upbringing (we presume). The last 20 minutes of the film or so, in particular, were absolutely astonishing to me with their performances and McQueen’s direction. The film was given an NC-17 rating by the MPAA and it’s pretty clear why—it does get fairly explicit, but this shouldn’t scare away anyone who appreciates a mesmerizing psychological drama that is highlighted by incredible performances.

4 out of 5 stars

About Shame:

A man’s carefully cultivated private life — which allows him to succumb to his intense sexual addiction — is disrupted when his troubled sister arrives unexpectedly for an indefinite stay.

Also with Fassbender and director McQueen:

Before Shame, Fassbender starred in McQueen’s 2008 drama Hunger. I’m going to use the word “haunting” again to describe this film, because it is. The film takes place in 1981 in Northern Ireland’s Maze prison. Fassbender portrays Irish Republican Army member Bobby Sands, who went on a hunger strike to protest the British government’s refusal to recognize him and his fellow IRA inmates as political prisoners, rather than as ordinary criminals. It’s an absolutely haunting film and, of course, Fassbender is remarkable in it.

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