Shame (R18)

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Review byLewis Bostock6/10/2011

Three out of Five stars
Running time: 99 mins

Shame is a film that seeks to be a confronting film about sex and sexuality BUT it reflects the same old, negative attitude we have toward sex, and doesn't do anything to change or challenge that attitude.

In the movie Shame up and comer Michael Fassbender, star of X-Men: First Class, plays a man suffering from sex addiction. Carey Mulligan plays his troubled sister, whose unannounced arrival at his New York City apartment is the cause of much disruption and stress in his deviant life.

It is a burden for this character to deal with people who depend on him. He has a complete lack of interest in human connection, rather than reach out, he looks for the next orgasm, and doesn't care where he gets it, rather than give his sister the emotional support she needs, he craves anonymous sex and internet porn.

The film received an NC-17 rating in the States, which means young adults under the age of 17 cannot see the film. This is financial suicide for some films. Rather than edit the film to gain an R rating so it can reach a wider audience, the filmmakers embraced the rating as a way of signaling to its target audience what exactly the film is about.

When your film stars a magnetic, handsome actor AND promises explicit sex AND full frontal male nudity, I expect many will rush to the cinema. And so they should, if only for the performances of Michael Fassbender and Carey Mulligan, who should be in contention for all the top awards Hollywood has to offer.

While they are brilliant in some of the best individual scenes of the year, where director Steve McQueen's long takes allow us to watch people behave in a way that is fascinating, and unusual, Shame is nowhere near as intelligent as it ought to be, in fact, I would go as far to say that it upholds the status quo.

The status quo, run by an ignorant media, religious elites and a lack of real sex education has brought up adults who treat sex as shameful and even dangerous. The filmmakers uphold this with its deeply depressing tone. We all, to some extent, keep our sexuality in the closet but after seeing Shame, it will probably stay locked inside.

In one scene of the film, Michael Fassbender's character, after being turned away from a straight nightclub, enters a gay cruise club and accepts oral sex. The suggestion here is that, 'Wow. He has sunk pretty low, if he's looking for sex here.' He's crossed a line and now all sorts of scary sex can come wondering across. It's discrimination.

A more provocative film, like Shortbus, is one that shows us that sex is a positive and benevolent force in people's lives. In its depiction of explicit sex, we should come to realize that sex can strengthen relationships rather than destroy them. Or, is one, that suggests good sex is not simply in marriage, in private and for procreation only.

The problem with Shame is that it's warning of 'See! Look at this guy! You will become him, isolated from your loved ones, if you have too much sex' is not unlike so many news stories this year. From Tiger Woods to Charlie Sheen, and now with the release of Shame, we continue to tell the same story over and over again. It's overkill.

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Content updated: 07/12/2019 16:41

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