If it’s true that happy families are all alike and that every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way, it’s also true that if addictions are all similar, every story of addiction deserves its own telling. Here the family is composed by a brother and a sister, each more desperate than the other.
The apparently successful new-yorker professional, Brandon (Michael Fassbender, winner of the Coppa Volpi at the 2011 Venice Film Festival for this role), is in reality affected by sex addiction unravelled by one night stands, prostitutes, pornographic movies and magazines all overloading his aseptic house and even his office computer. A daily poisoning, ruled in a paradoxical and lucidly organized absence of real exchange with anyone.
This life, made of an insane equilibrium in perversion, is suddenly changed when his sister Sissy (Carey Mulligan) settles in his apartment for some days.
Workless, abandoned by her man, Sissy seems to be even more sad and unsolved than her brother. But her presence is enough to expose Brandon and force him indirectly to take consciousness of his situation. This will lead him to a whole series of attempts to escape from it, in a dramatic crescendo until a… recursive conclusion.
The capability of avoiding pornography in a movie dedicated to sex addiction, is already much of an achievement. Steve McQueen, together with his co-writer Abi Morgan, builds up a story made of few essential dialogues and a lot of evocative moments, alternated with physicality and sexuality just as explicit and natural as not sensual at all.
Leaving us few clues about his protagonist’s past, McQueen lets the viewer imagine for him any background, creating a clever identification margin. On the other side, Fassbender’s perfect performance is so true and angrily touching, just as in Hunger, which brought to McQueen the Camera d’Or prize for the best debut work at 2008 Cannes Film Festival. In Hunger Fassbender played Bobby Sands, the IRA member who in the ‘80s was on and died of an hunger strike in order to protest against IRA activists treatment in Her Majesty’s prisons.
Brandon over the Hudson… over there, in the bedroom with a view he can only meet call girls while Goldberg Variations cover for his shame.
McQueen leads the viewer between almost unbearable peaks of lyricism and pain. As a matter of fact, Brandon’s emotions and sentiments are fully detached from sex but not missing. We see him crying in a venue, while his sister sings, in a memorable and desperate way, “New York New York”. The emotion of the two siblings is “endogamic” and remains all inside the family or, better, inside the family’ desperation. Click here for the trailer.
Thanks to an accurate and evocative photography and an intense directing, the English video-artist (homonymous of the great actor) succeeds in stripping off the violence incidental to his stories –Brandon is both victim and executioner of an explicit and no feeling sexuality– reducing them to minimalism climax unveiling its uselessness and crudity. It is a moral exposure as in Hunger there was a political exposure, just as refined and claustrophobic in the human analysis, at the same time aimed to enlighten the dark corners of our society. Bobby Sands and Brandon’ prisoners condition is parallel and lives on the indifference of the surrounding world, even if it is almost absent in McQueen’s narrative horizon.
There are bravery and hearth in McQueen’s movie, and personally I can’t wait to see the director and his favourite German-Irish actor (who would had deserved the Golden Globe, but crossing fingers there are still the Oscars) working together again in the next project, Twelve Years a Slave. Another captivity story, this time settled in the XIX century and inspired, like this one, by a true story, which will see Fassbender reuniting with Brad Pitt after Inglorious Bastards, the movie that made his name in Hollywood.