Hard-hitting drama from director Steve McQueen (Hunger). Brandon's (Michael Fassbender) carefully cultivated sex addiction is interrupted by the unannounced arrival of his sister (Carey Mulligan).

"Brandon is a New Yorker who shuns intimacy with women but feeds his desires with a compulsive addiction to sex. When his wayward younger sister (Carey Mulligan) moves into his apartment stirring memories of their shared painful past, Brandon's insular life spirals out of control." (Official Synopsis)



Volpi Cup winner (Best Performance) for Fassbender, Venice Film Festival 2011.

Directed by



Rating: R18 contains sex scenes & suicide


Official Site


Aaron Yap


Steve McQueen’s debut feature Hunger, about the harrowing true story of IRA prisoner Bobby Sands, displayed a particularly strong sense of vision and aesthetic that not only made the dramatisation of Sands’ plight a gut-wrenching experience but also a truly haunting and powerful one. His follow-up, Shame, is similarly downbeat, a grim study of sex addiction that still shows his meticulous attention to sensory details. But unfortunately this time it’s in service of a none-too-interesting fictionalised character and a story that lacks the emotional punch of his first film.

It opens well enough establishing the sexual urges and exploits of its protagonist Brandon (Michael Fassbender), a New Yorker whom regularly beds prostitutes, masturbates and consumes porn. McQueen doesn’t go for titillation, shooting with a clinical remove that effectively emphasises Brandon’s existence as devoid of warmth and love. And Fassbender, in all his amply appendaged glory, does his best with a character that inspires little of our sympathy; at best, it’s a bold portrayal of how the relentless pursuit of sex can be both a source of ecstasy and torment.

Shame’s biggest failure is that it doesn’t dig deep enough. Its focus on detachment keeps the audience away from the characters, whom remain frustratingly underdeveloped throughout. When the credits roll, we don’t know much more about Brandon, nor his troubled relationship with his sister Sissy (Carey Mulligan) - a crucial narrative turning point - and this lack of character resolve leaves the film feeling vacuous and lazy rather than provocative and illuminating.

A.V. Club (USA)


A moody, textured piece.

Chicago Sun-Times (Roger Ebert)


This is a great act of filmmaking and acting. I don't believe I would be able to see it twice.

Empire (UK)


Brave, beautifully acted and emotionally revealing — an early strong contender for the most provocative and compelling film of the year.

Entertainment Weekly (USA)


The biggest surprise in Shame is how distanced, passionless, and merely skin-deep the director's attention is - how little he cares about the subject of his own movie.

Hollywood Reporter


Its dramatic and stylistic prowess provides a cinematic jolt that is bracing to experience.

Los Angeles Times


This is a psychologically claustrophobic film that strips its characters bare literally and figuratively, leaving them, and us, nowhere to hide.

New York Post


A grim and arty drama.

New York Times


The seriousness of its effort is hard to deny.

Rolling Stone


There's no easy way to shake off Shame. It gets in your head.

The Daily Telegraph (UK)


Shame is packed with scenes which are both immaculately composed and seething with meaning.

The Guardian (UK)


This is fluid, rigorous, serious cinema; the best kind of adult movie.

The Guardian (UK)


This is fluid, rigorous, serious cinema; the best kind of adult movie.

The New Yorker


Pure and pitiless and oddly disapproving.

The Observer (UK)


Shame is a disturbing film that penetrates our minds and gets beneath our skins as we try to understand its characters.

Time Magazine


In a movie era remarkable for its reluctance to dramatize erotic intimacy, Shame merits praise for the dark energy of its sexual encounters.

Total Film (UK)


Not for the faint-hearted, prudish or impatient, Shame is as complex and ambiguous as its characters.

USA Today


With its focus on relentless sexual craving the movie is superficially bold, but lacks the bravery to go all the way.

Variety (USA)


Certain to arouse critical acclaim and smart-audience interest wherever it's shown.

This Film Needs More Attention

Shame makes it 2/2 for Steve McQueen in a big bad way and reconfirms Fassbender as one of the best actors working right now. How he didn't get an Oscar nod for this is a real shame.

The film follows Brandon (Fassbender) as he struggles with sexual addictions, both real and virtual while at the same time, putting up his sister who has her own set of struggles to deal with. What I love about Shame is that it is truly a representation of a generation who more so then any other, is both personally and publicly aware of how messed up things can get as human beings. We seem to know a lot about other peoples problems now, even if we've never experienced or even know of anyone who has experienced them, it's just that it's all out there in the open now. Shame is both sympathetic and empathetic towards Brandon but not too much of either. There are thousands of people in the world like Brandon, and Shame isn't showing him as any less human then the rest of us, the opposite actually. There is a bunch of criticism towards this film in regards to what caused his pain, why is he like this, and people not being able to empathize with a character that they don't know the emotional history of. To me, this wasn't that crucial. Brandon IS like this and the film is about how he has to live with this, and possibly get through it, not about what made him like this in the first place (that could be another film all on its own).

Shame is truly a brief window into a mans world who most viewers won't personally be able to identify with but who can acknowledge that this is a part of who we are. The film doesn't follow the traditional sense of beginning, middle and end and feels deeply fresh, right up till the last minute. The long takes used in the film, the same sort used in Hunger, showcase the casts acting ability and push everything to the limit as now these takes don't just include dialogue but scenes of intimacy too.

Shame left me feeling satisfied as the credits rolled in a dense kind of way that only a film that hits you hard with thought provoking characters can.

What porn does to some

Brandon can't have relationships or make love. He is addicted to sordid brutal, depersonalised f******. The film implies this is an outcome of the worst kind of hard core porn addiction. 'Shame' takes on our hypersexualised times fearlessly and is a profound portrayal of the distortion and damage to those vulnerable. Brandon is a victim, and he is not a freak- there are many Brandon's out there. Don't kid yourself.

Brilliant and provocative movie.


Is it possible to both love and loath a film at the same time? I'm not trying to sound cliche, in fact it's a very real question. Today's film Shame has for the first time in 2012 thrown me into complete internal disaccord. I have certainly felt confliction on my journey thus far, but never to the extent which I could clearly define and feel both love and hate for a single film. I walked out of Shame feeling emotionally defeated, this due in part to the film's intense emotional intimacy but mostly due to the fact I spent the whole picture allowing myself to be romanced by the brilliance of film making, effectively ignoring the abhorrence of its subject matter. It wasn't until I left the theatre that I was able to reconcile the two and fully realise the inner battle I had experienced.

Shame is an unadulterated examination of one man's battle with sex addiction and its impact on life, love and work. To some this may seem like a desirable habitual fixation, the reality however seems nothing short of the personal enslavement and dependency you might see in a heroin junkie.

Our protagonist is Brandon (Michael Fassbender) and he is a sex addict. Shame introduces Brandon near the height of his addiction by which time it's clearly apparent that his hyper-sexuality is in overdrive and now a mainstay of his daily routine, a routine of sexual solicitation and handmade satisfaction. His perpetual cycle is interrupted when Sissy (Carey Mulligan) his lugubrious sister comes to live with him. He is made to supress his nocturnal compulsions, pushing his already volatile state of mind over the edge.

In his first film since the exceptional 2008 drama Hunger, Director Steve McQueen offers us a gritty, repulsive and downright filthy examination of human natures capabilities. An actor's director, McQueen demands a lot of his cast; each scene is staged with an eloquent simplicity. Requiring at most two or three setups McQueen allows dialogue to run without the complexity of multiple cuts and camera angles, for me the film's most powerful scenes were 'locked off' one camera shots.

Actor Michael Fassbender (Inglorious bastards) is phenomenal in the role of Brandon; he was able to cut to the core of complex character, as vile as Brandon was I connected with almost everything Fassbender was selling me. Brandon's sexuality obviously sits near the heart of the film, Fassbender was asked to give a lot, and luckily he had A LOT to give. I would say however, whilst Shame is given the most restricted rating on offer in New Zealand, the film adheres to the contrived sexual simulations we have come to expect from cinema movies; anytime Shame deviated from this it seemed little more than to add shock value.

There is a air of indifference about the importance of Sissy in the film - for me whilst nicely acted I saw right through McQueen's thinly veiled attempts to make her relevant - ultimately she becomes an outlet for Brandon's frustrations. There were subtle insinuations about the nature of the brother sister relationship, but left unformed this is of little relevance to our protagonist's development.

All said and done the Shame is beautifully constructed and well-acted film, and for that reason I loved it. The ritualization of sexual addiction and the ugliness that ensues makes for a vexatious cinematic experience: for that reason it's not one I'd want again.

Masterful, but difficult

2011 was a hell of a year for Michael Fassbender, a year in which he effortlessly hopped genres and worked with some of the best directors around, building one of the most impressive filmographies of any young actor at this time. Yet the one performance that will be remembered over all others comes from the most low-key film, Steve McQueen's SHAME. As grim and uncomfortable as the film gets, it is simply impossible to turn away from Fassbender's devastating performance as sex addict Brandon, and his omission from the Academy Award nominations, although perhaps not surprising given Hollywood's trepidation regarding anything overly sexual, is far and away the greatest crime this awards season.

Following up on his previous film HUNGER (also starring Fassbender), writer/director McQueen delivers an even more harrowing and haunting film with his sophomore effort. SHAME is a portrait of the vicious routine of addiction, and Fassbender strips himself completely bare, both literally and emotionally, following the arrival of Brandon's sister Sissy (Carey Mulligan). Although only briefly alluded to, clearly Brandon and Sissy come from a nightmarish background of abuse, and each sibling has developed crippling emotional problems as a result. Where Brandon is totally emotionally isolated, unable to connect on anything other than a purely physical level, Sissy craves closeness and love from her brother which he cannot give. Their relationship is unsurprisingly strained; with only the briefest moments of tenderness amongst their uneasy and oddly child-like interactions, and the tragedy of their shared experience has left them each dealing with their demons in completely different ways, leading to heart-breaking conflict. Sissy's appearance shatters Brandon's routine, forcing him to see the train-wreck that his life has become, and Fassbender gives everything in service of the role.

As excellent as Fassbender and Mulligan are, they are more than complemented by McQueen's beautiful directing style. Coming from a visual arts background, naturally his compositions are flawless, and much like HUNGER, SHAME's minimalist dialogue often comes in the form of long takes, adding a sense of unsettling realism which is occasionally difficult to endure. In very Kubrick-ian style, the director's attention to detail in his locations also adds so much to the tone of the story. Brandon's sparsely furnished and decorated apartment works as a perfect counterpart to his character, revealing nothing on the surface yet filled with hidden clues about his addiction, and as such becomes an extension of his personality, making Sissy's presence all the more unwelcome. McQueen's choices of where to focus his camera are fascinating and, coupled with the suggestive imagery and euphemistic dialogue, subtly convey so much of what he wants to say, resulting in one of the most remarkable films of the year. Those expecting a concrete resolution will perhaps walk away disappointed, but for audiences with a high threshold for unpleasantness, SHAME is an absolute must-see.

Still processing

My wife gives it a 3 and me a 4.

This movie has layers and subtlety to it. The story centres on a short time in the life of a brother and sister who for their own reasons are struggling with life in different ways. She say's he's a weirdo. That could be due to his preoccupation with sex whether it be girls he's picked up, prostitutes, self stimulation, internet services, books or any source he can find. On the other hand he says she's needy. She seems clingy with a need to be loved and wanted.

Our journey follows him at first and the results of them coming together. She alludes to why their lives are this way. Their dysfunction and focus on themselves causes problems that ultimately lead to the close of the movie.

The viewer is left filling in the spaces, wondering what the end meant for him and ultimately her and how they both ended up in this place.

I wondered if the movie could have benefitted from being more sexually explicit but realized this was never about love for him.

It's an interesting movie and portrayal. Some people may want a bit more told but for me that's the beauty of it.




American Psycho if it wasn't funny

Shame was intense. I found myself all tensed up in terror and disgust multiple times, but nonetheless transfixed and entertained. It was like American Psycho minus the hilarity but still including the douche bag employees (his boss mainly, he NAILS that role).

Fassbender is truly amazing, he has this simmering anger which is very unnerving even though his character can be extremely smooth.

Great movie!

not for the prudes

prepare for uncomfortable extended shots and uncomfortable laughs at the situations the characters are in. Really makes one experience all the awkward emotions: e.g. humiliation, repressed rage, helplessness and Shame. Watch it if you appreciate subtlety and good acting.

Hope in a dark world

Painfully real. Oddly, emotionally comforting, for those of us that suffer and stuggle through life. A beautiful movie which shows there can be hope and love in such a dark world.

nothing is resolved

which may well be the point, but it takes a lot of very slow scenes in order to not resolve anything

we are given no insight into what caused the pain that the two lead characters are dealing with.

despite ultimately showing he cares deeply about his sister Fassbender's character is never likeable and my response to him went from appaled to pity.

well shot, well acted, but the story was lacking.

btw, not a good first date movie.

A trip to the dark side of the psyche

Like director Steve McQueen's 'Hunger,' which also starred Michael Fassbender, 'Shame' is a character study. Like real life, much is unsaid; much left unresolved and there is no traditional Hollywood narrative with a neat beginning, middle and end. This is an attempt at exposing (in every sense) the complexity of existing. If there is a plot, then suffice it to say Fassbender plays a New Yorker addicted to sex. So, things get complicated further when his estranged sister (Carey Mulligan) comes to stay... Never easy, always raw, this is powerful drama. Think Sam Mendes' "Revolutionary Road" meets Stephen Daldry's "The Reader"... but grimmer and tougher and you're in the ballpark. Intelligent, unrelenting and tough - it's a brave cast and crew who attempt to be this honest and the resultant movie's a tough sell. Some will give themselves up to it and for them this will linger long in the mind. Others will be bored or even offended. Either way - it's not a movie that will leave many on the fence. But one thing's for sure - Michael Fassbender prooves himself an actor as adept at playing Magneto as Macbeth. A must for cinephiles who enjoy a trip to the dark side of the psyche.