Steve McQueen is a sensationally powerful director who understands the complexity of human emotion and explores that in his films. This is no more evident than in Shame, his finest work and in my opinion his masterpiece. Shame defines everything that McQueen excels at as a director; beautifully told ugly stories, about flawed men and women, about pain, about desolation and loss and suffering and self loathing and hatred and fear, and shame.
Brandon wakes up in the morning, our first delicately framed shot, and before his cognition kicks in, before this unabating primal urge starts to occupy his mind, his body, his existence, he feels it, he feels shame. He turns away from one conquest after another, unsatisfied, unable to quench his hunger for pleasure, intimacy, excitement, and he feels shame. He sits on the subway, and fights the urge to pursue, the predatory need to conquer and satisfy his basest urges, but they are too powerful and he feels it, his shame. His shame at being unable to control himself, a man so meticulous, so measured, clean, tidy and calm, and he cannot control this one simple truth, his addiction dominates his life, determines his future, taints his relationships - no more so than with Sissy, who he keeps at arms length, who he lashes out at, who he abandons, because he is absorbed with his lust and ultimately ashamed. She invades his sanctuary and forces him to treat his addiction as a secret in the one place he never had to, his home, and so he feels shame. Sissy shares a similar addiction, she desires over all else to feel loved, wanted, comforted, needed and desired. She is alone, as Brandon is alone, each adrift in a sea of human beings, in bustling New York and yet so utterly, desperately and entirely alone. It sinks into your stomach as the story unfolds, the loneliness invades you as you follow these characters, their desolation stabs straight to your heart, it crawls underneath your skin, gets caught in your hair, until you mirror what they feel, reflected in the cool, blue colours utilised by Bobbitt to ensure that you don't leave this viewing untouched by what you see.