The reach-out-and-touch physicality that director Steve McQueen and actor Michael Fassbender brought to their Bobby Sands saga Hunger is, if anything, even more potent in this stunning follow-up, an excoriating dramatic portrait of a New York executive in thrall to sexual addiction. Fassbender’s character is an aloof charmer well versed in the art of the casual encounter, but his desires are so ever-present he’s en route to self-destructive meltdown. Then his lounge-chanteuse sister (Carey Mulligan) arrives to stay, her volatile and emotionally needy personality proving his polar opposite – and as such a mirror image giving him cause to ponder his ways.
Both actors give tellingly exposed performances which deliver an almost shocking intimacy, yet the precision and seriousness of McQueen’s direction refuse any suggestion of salaciousness for its own sake. This is a questioning, unsettling, very adult case-study, which, as its soundtrack of Glenn Gould’s Bach and disco groove suggests, explores the troubling hinterland twixt body and soul. (Notes by Trevor Johnston.)
PREVIEW + Q&AThere will be a preview of Shame and satellite Q&A with Steve McQueen on Tuesday, January 10th at 19.00.