The idea of there being any misery surrounding sex addiction seems laughable but this powerful and touching film proves that when sex becomes a compulsion it can be devastating. Here is the first brilliant film of 2012 thanks to a brilliant script, direction and two central performances.
Brandon (Fassbender) is an outwardly successful corporate type leading a seemingly charmed existence in Manhattan. However beneath his confident exterior lies a sex addict with a desperate need for flesh regardless of whether it is live or virtual. When his emotional extrovert younger sister Sissy (Mulligan) arrives at his apartment unannounced, Brandon’s fragile life begins to unravel and the true face of his problems begins to show through his facade.
The first shot of the film has Michael Fassbender lying on a bed in post-coital pose but he looks enervated. There is no sense of awe and wonder or achievement traditionally conveyed after sex in films just exhaustion and sadness in Fassbender’s face. Straightaway you realise that there is a darkness dwelling underneath everything.
This view is further compounded by the locations. Brandon’s life takes place in a wintry looking New York, all unmemorable offices and restaurants with the steel and glass of post-modern architecture. His apartment has a sterile feel due to its minimalist style and the only colour comes from record sleeves and stashes of porn he has hidden about. There is an overall lack of warmth in the world which is mirrored in the sex which has had joy and life leeched out of it because it has become a compulsion for Brandon, a procession of nude bodies and squalid, loveless encounters which act as a fix and that is without mentioning the endless pornography he watches online.