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Shame (2011)

by British Film Critic

I’d heard the buzz around Steve McQueen’s work for a long time, and so I’m as surprised as anyone else that only now have I got around to exploring his work, but, only two films into his filmography, I’ve got a really, really good feeling for what I was missing. McQueen has to be one of the most promising, if not one of the best filmmakers of the 2010s, and onwards.

He is so unafraid of exploring, in great detail and with excruciating authenticity, subjects and stories that are far too uncomfortable and taboo for people to even discuss, let alone make feature length films about. The way addiction and depression, among a plethora of other things, are handled in Shame is with great tastefulness – the place McQueen comes from is always that of empathy and understand – but, most importantly, with great honesty. He is completely unafraid to paint these intense, provocative and painful as they are, and it’s thus unapologetic authenticity that makes McQueen’s work so incredibly poignant, and so incredibly distinct.

Michael Fassbender is an actor I’m incredibly familiar with, and yet the performance he puts forward in this film is like nothing I had ever seen of him before. It’s painfully vulnerable, it’s emotionally distant, it’s overtly subtle and it’s blatantly human. McQueen really seems to get the best work out of all the actors he works with (Mulligan is also really fantastic), and I wouldn’t have any trouble in saying Fassbender gives one of the best, most sincere performances I’ve ever seen.

The film’s score from Harry Escott is so profoundly moving too – it really felt akin to the pairing of Nolan and Zimmer in films like Inception, in the sense that it really capitalises and emphasises moments at just the right time. Again, I’m only two films in, but I am quite literally buzzing to continue with McQueen’s work after having just viewed this modern masterwork.