Film Review – Shame

Shame (R)

Directed by: Steve McQueen

Starring: Michael Fassbender, Carey Mulligan, James Badge Dale, Nicole Beharie

Four stars

Review by: Julian Wright

Films have explored drug and alcohol addiction and the spiral into hell that accompanies it to the point where audiences are on the verge of desensitisation. We know by now the difficulties in overcoming the addiction and the effect it has on family and friends. But when Sandra Bullock gives it a whirl in the woeful rom-com misfire 28 Days, we know we have seen it all.

It is refreshing that co-writer/director Steve McQueen has chosen to explore an addiction that many may not know exists, or believes exists. And due to a prudish society, is all but swept under the rug. But as we learn in Shame, the effects of an addiction to sex can be just as harrowing as an addiction to any destructive substances.

Brandon Sullivan (Michael Fassbender) appears to be a fairly regular 30-somthing New Yorker with a career and nice apartment. But what he manages to conceal is his addiction to sex. He spends every waking moment thinking about, doing it, looking at internet porn and masturbating.

It is a difficult enough task to keep this dark, shameful secret from his friends and co-workers every day, but when his work computer is taken off for repairs without warning and his sister Sissy (Carey Mulligan) shows up on his doorstep unannounced, he becomes unhinged. Sissy and Brendan have an unspoken troubled past and her presence brings is all back.

Shame explores some daring and fascinating territory as Brandon seeks sexual gratification in a gay club as a last resort and later evoking emotional pain during a threesome. And McQueen films some eloquent dialogue-less moments, preferring to show than to talk about it.

We come to feel great sympathy and empathy for this damaged character, but anyone hoping he may find reprieve or  a light at the end of the tunnel will be sorely disappointed and left as frustrated as Brandon. This isn’t a road to recovery story with a neatly placed bow at the end. This is an example of the hell an addicted person lives in, but a beautifully filmed one.


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