It’s just a shame that this film wasn’t a bit better. I’m not saying I hated or even disliked Shame, but it had the potential to be a great film that handles an issue that is rarely discussed and is entirely taboo. One thing, for sure, that impressed me about Shame was the way that it made me actually feel the shame and remorse and immense self-loathing that Brandon experienced on an hourly basis. That was powerful, and I mainly attribute that to the sheer talent of one of my favorite actors, Michael Fassbender. In his second collaboration with the talented Steve McQueen, Fassbender is almost frightening. When he attacks his visiting sister in nothing but a bath towel (one that is starting to fall down, at that) and begins screaming in her face, I genuinely felt like he might have lost his mind. His rage, which clearly stems from his own unimaginably great disappointment in and repulsion of himself, is fairly constant and, while far less intense than that of his later performance as a plantation owner in McQueen’s follow-up film 12 Years A Slave, is shocking.
At the same time, Fassbender is also wise to portray Brandon thoroughly enjoying the acts that ultimately lead to his frustration. This is vital to his performance because it is clear that the film is attempting to show that sex addiction is, in fact, an addiction. It is an affliction, much like alcoholism or drug addiction. Brandon is not a freak, he’s not a pervert…he is suffering. But, as all addicts do, Brandon enjoys doing these acts while he is doing them. Just because a cocaine addict might desperately want to stop using the drug, this doesn’t mean that he will suddenly no longer enjoy cocaine when he does use it. In order to achieve the goal that this film is trying to accomplish, Fassbender needs to be as dead-on as possible. He nails it.