This weekend, I saw Shame in theatres, a film based on a 30-something sex addict in NYC, a man who, on the surface, seems to have the looks, talent, career and drive to be a knock-down success. But above and beyond the wayward sex, it was as subtly about addiction's toll on relationships, friendly, familial and romantic, as it was on the nature of the addiction, a nuance which I appreciated. Often, relationships are portrayed as a side storyline to the addiction itself, which takes the role of the encapsulating, abusive, ill-timed lover.
Facets of the film resonated on multiple levels, as I think they will across scores of addicts and for those familiar with substance abuse and addiction. Though slow-paced, it gives a snapshot into an addict's life and an ending which offers little answers -- a perfect film for pondering. For me, parts produced goosebumps and seemed well-timed for the holidays.
For many of us with addiction in our lives, holidays are painful -- wracked with memories of loved ones under the influence, horrific arguments or absent family members. I war with traveling back to my hometown, tension mounting towards the time of my supposed "vacation," fearing the seemingly mandatory wince-worthy conversations and the drama. Over the course of the film line after line became real, surely phrases which have circulated, bird-like, in my household:
"We're not bad people. We just come from a bad place."
"We're family, we're meant to look out for each other."
"I make you angry all of the time, and I don't know why."
"I find you disgusting. I find you inconsolable. I find you invasive."
The irony here is the indistinguishable nature of the character reading the line -- is the addict speaking or the family member? The exhaustion woven throughout is palpable, frustrating barricade after barricade obstructing communication.
The film widely misses the trite addiction genres common of on-screen performances, and if anything, puts the viewer in a place to sympathize and transcend feelings of annoyance surrounding the holidays. Though this isn't your typical Christmas movie, it might act as a much-needed spoonful of tolerance, and couldn't we all use a bit more of that?
Grade: A. Go watch in theatres!
Seen it? Have a different take? Let's talk in the comments below.