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'Shame' is grim, but fascinating



As we continue to connect this year's Academy Award nominees with prior films, it is definitely worth considering the intriguing and highly respected earlier work generated by director Steve McQueen and actor Michael Fassbender, both nominated for "12 Years a Slave." They have worked together on several films. One of these films is "Shame," which came out in 2011.

In "Shame," Fassbender plays Brandon, who seemingly has a good life. The handsome bachelor lives in a plush New York apartment with all the trappings of material success. He is a respected businessman and is good friends with his boss. But Brandon has one major problem in his life: he is hopelessly addicted to sex. His addiction is so strong, he even looks at porn websites on his computer at work. When Brandon's emotionally fragile and needy sister, Sissy (played by Carey Mulligan), moves into his apartment, he finds his life spinning out of control.

"Shame" is a very depressing film. Brandon and Sissy do not have a very good relationship and seem incapable of having a meaningful relationship with anyone. Also, Brandon has little hope of overcoming his addiction.

Though it is sad, it is still well-worth seeing for its great performances. Michael Fassbender is very authentic as Brandon. He creates a character with an uncontrollable appetite for physical gratification, but little capacity for emotional connections. Carey Mulligan is equally effective, showing that Sissy tries really hard to have a good relationship with her brother.

Since sex is a theme in the movie, viewers should know it has very graphic sex scenes. Just as McQueen did not shy away from showing the cruelties of slave owners in "12 Years a Slave," he did not avoid showing the physical pleasures sought by a sex addict.

"Shame" is a fascinating look at someone who suffers from a sex addiction, but it is for mature audiences only.