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Reviews
STAR RATINGS EXPLAINED
Unmissable 5 Stars
Excellent 4 Stars
Good 3 Stars
Poor 2 Stars
Tragic 1 Star

FILM DETAILS
Certificate
18
Cast
Michael Fassbender
Carey Mulligan
James Badge Dale
Nicole Beharie.
Directors
Steve McQueen.
Screenwriters
Abi Morgan
Steve McQueen.
Running Time
101 minutes

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Shame
Manhattan becomes shlong island


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Plot
New York professional Brandon (Fassbender) thinks he is a normal guy with a robust sexual appetite. But the unexpected arrival of his damaged sister Sissy (Mulligan) forces him to realise that he might have a problem...


Review
Shame
Browse more images »
A film about sex addiction from the team that made the IRA strike drama Hunger was never likely to be a frothy, titillating romp, and the film Steve McQueen has made — co-written with playwright Abi Morgan — is every bit as intellectually austere as one might imagine. It is also recognisably from the same well; though it is set in the modern day, takes place in the US and is seemingly not in the least bit political, it is a film about free will and the age-old battle between body and soul. In Hunger, Bobby Sands’ soul won that battle, but Brandon in Shame is not so fortunate: he thinks he’s a hedonist when in fact he’s a slave, both to his body and its desperate, physical need for contact.

The film even begins as a horror film might, with an ominous orchestral score and Brandon on the subway, making eye contact with the woman opposite. First he smiles, and she smiles back, but his gaze never drops and she becomes nervous. Flirtation becomes pursuit, with Brandon’s eyes narrowing, the smile losing its good humour, the body language turning predatory as the woman, now flustered, leaves, trying to lose him in the crowd. She does, and the whole film is here in microcosm: when he realises he’s lost her, Brandon’s bravado melts into child-like disappointment. What will he do now? From the start, the mask is slipping.

For a character study of such depth and intimacy, it helps to have a leading man who can rise to the challenge, and fortunately Shame’s intellectual rigours are leavened by a tour de force performance by the mighty Michael Fassbender. He gives Brandon depth and humanity; this is not, strictly speaking, a simple male-ego-in-crisis movie, even though it does play as a slightly more complex reworking of Alfie. Played by Fassbender, Brandon is a regular guy, albeit someone who keeps his mental wounds hidden from the world and maintains an admirable regime of denial.

That we can understand and believe in Brandon as a man on the verge of unravelling comes down to another remarkable performance, by Carey Mulligan as Sissy. It’s too small a role for her by far, but she works wonders with what she has. Seeing Sissy — theatrical, flaky, self-harming and self-
sabotaging — sets Brandon’s mind reeling. Are they the same? Deep down, he decides, they are, which is a realisation that is key to the eye-popping last act. It is not, however, a film without humour and warmth, provided respectively and in equal measure by James Badge Dale as Brandon’s boss and Nicole Beharie as his secretary, and it is these supporting players that give Shame its potency. The film lurches fatally into melodrama in its closing minutes, but although it adds a grim, moralistic aftertaste, it isn’t enough to derail an unflinching, moving study of 21st-century loneliness.


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


Reviewed by Damon Wise

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Your Reviews

Average user rating for Shame
Empire Star Rating

What was the fuss about

Ok, I grant you Fassbender was amazing in a role which expects more than most make leads. but what the hell was the whole thing about and why the painfully slow rendition of New York New York? A few visuals reminded you that this was "art", but mostly this was just very soft and unnecessary porn about a man who basically had no life beyond sex. And?????? Truly dreadful - I watched in a cinema with 6 others, two of whom left half way through. I wish I had as well - this was so bor... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Dillon the Villain at 07:28, 17 February 2013 | Report This Post


RE: What a SHAME!!!

L: Ramone87 t and foremost if it were not for Michael Fassbender's amazing performance or Carey Mulligan this film would not hold it's interest in you for over 2 hours.s it felt dated, and many scenes for me did not ring true. Without revealing to many spoliers his decent into male angst and sex addiction / self destruction felt exploitative, pretentious and over-cooked, this due to the directors need to stay that little bit TOO LONG in those countless sex scenes. Ok we get the message... More

Posted by ElephantBoy at 17:51, 16 February 2013 | Report This Post


RE: Shame

The second collaboration between erstwhile artist/prodigal filmmaker Steve McQueen and Irish wunderkind Michael Fassbender held much promise on release and over-delivered without question. Fassbender stars as Brandon, a man whose life to his work colleagues is a straightforward one of the daily office grind coupled with martinis and embarrassing attempts at pulling by night. But in reality Brandon is a self-loathing, pitiful sex addict whose inability to nurture a genuine human relationshi... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Biggus at 00:33, 16 February 2013 | Report This Post


Shame on the four stars

Beautiful to look at at times; the scenery and Fassbender. intriguing to follow at times - the rendition of New York New York has to rate as a classic. BUT....what exactly was the point of Shame other than to indulge in Fassbender's physical beauty and show how damaged humans can become. Enjoyable, NO, remarkable and controversial, YES, a film.....not sure. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Dillon the Villain at 16:57, 15 January 2013 | Report This Post


Lame

Hunger was stunning. Shame on the other hand is middle brow - a predictable character study that fails to impress. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by atom_band at 15:08, 30 October 2012 | Report This Post


Sobering, But Ultimately Rather Vapid Piece

Shame has two things: a concept that is interesting in its' own right. Comprising a plotline that is something of an intense sexual journey story featuring Fassbender (who is, incidently, giving the defining performance of his career thus far), we delve into a bizarre and emotional merging of his life and his libido, and for the most part, I'd say the concept holds water. However, the second element shame has EXTREME self-indulgence. It's the production, which is particularly strong particularly... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by blaud at 01:50, 19 October 2012 | Report This Post


RE: Good but not great.

The more I think about this film, the less it stays with me. I think the visual cliche of the final act helps me to see this as a well acted, but slightly empty film with nothing that new to say. Sex addication is treated like other addictions and maybe that is the point - but that story of the fall into hell has been told so many times now. That said, it is still very worthwhile and for the performances alone, is worth a rental at least. ... More

Posted by Rgirvan44 at 12:05, 23 August 2012 | Report This Post


RE: Good but not great.

Finally got round to see this film and,overall, I was impressed. I read some sniffy reviews at the time,some claiming the film to be a "soft-core porn film with a conscious" which I felt was terribly harsh. Fassbender was as consistently brilliant as he has been in ,arguably,all of his films while Mulligans character began to ever grow into the film as Fassbenders disillusioned and ,also, sexually,morally troubled sister. The films story was greatly worked and its sexual realism ... More

Posted by OPEN YOUR EYES at 23:25, 29 July 2012 | Report This Post


Good but not great.

I thought this was a good film, but there wasn't anything that made me feel sorry or pity the lead character which I think was the whole point. Fassbender is incredible though, and does wonders with the character. Mulligan is also amazing in her role. It was slow paced but I found myself never being able to look away. There was just some connection lacking for me despite the great performances. The very last scene and the first scene were the best of the movie. 3/5 ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Coyleone at 14:44, 12 June 2012 | Report This Post


Shame Review

Boasting stellar performances by Michael Fassbender and Carey Mulligan, Shame is a powerful plunge into the mania of addiction affliction. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by the film man at 12:49, 11 May 2012 | Report This Post


Shame Review

Boasting stellar performances by Michael Fassbender and Carey Mulligan, Shame is a powerful plunge into the mania of addiction affliction. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by the film man at 12:48, 11 May 2012 | Report This Post


A Lacking Concept

'Spoiler alert'. Overall, the acting is brilliant however the concept of the film fails to engage the audience on a strong emotional level for two reasons. When by the end of the film Brandon (Michael Fassbender) is gripping his hair in the pouring rain shaking in despair at his situation...you just don't care. You feel a slither of sympathy for him because he is such a sorry and pathetic character but this is pretty weak. It isn't Fassbender's fault that an emotional connection isn't crea... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by AlwaysRight at 19:00, 12 April 2012 | Report This Post


RE: Shame

Very over hyped this one; the only notable things about it are the two main performances, making it feel like oscar bait. Fassbender is even more impressive considering he is lumbered with a one dimensional character we are blatantly supposed to pity. I don't see many viewers being able to sympathise with a character who is a good looking affluent new yorker subjected to the horrors of sleeping with several attractive young women. First world problems, yo. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by spamandham at 16:12, 05 February 2012 | Report This Post


RE: Shame

The subject of personal addiction is certainly nothing new to fiction film. To highlight some of the stronger moments from the past; Kubrick dedicated an entire work to the adrenaline rush felt by committing acts of violence. Danny Boyle (much to the detestation of Eric Clapton) dared to display both the euphoria & despair experienced by a group of Edinburgh-based junkies in equal measure. Whilst Ken Loach sensitively portrayed the debilitating nature of alcoholism and the hardship one faces in... More

Posted by Qwerty Norris at 20:34, 03 February 2012 | Report This Post


RE: Shame

A woman sits on the subway, minding her own business, when her eyes meet with the stranger sitting opposite. He is handsome, sexy, and he stares at her, smiling. Shyly, she smiles back. He looks at her – her eyes, her lips, her bare thighs, back at her eyes – still, staring. The smile slowly turns into a grimace. Still staring. She becomes uncomfortable, tries to ignore him. Still staring. The train begins to stop. Still staring. The doors open. Still staring. The woman gets up and quickly leav... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by jafar.iqbal at 17:35, 01 February 2012 | Report This Post


RE: What a SHAME!!!

s on Friday as part of my birthday weekend and went to see it with Emyr and it was a mesmeric piece of film making, proving that Hunger was certainly no fluke. The unravelling of the central character, played by Fassbender (omnipresent currently but deservedly so) was part engaging, horrifying, sad, complex, and above all you found a man struggling to find and establish a personality for himself in his own life outside that of an addicted skeletol being whose skin does not fit. Without gi... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by JIm R at 15:26, 31 January 2012 | Report This Post


RE: What a SHAME!!!

I would give this 2/5 stars.  Could have been an interesting film but it doesn't really have much of a plot.  The performances are great but this got so hyped up that it can't really live up to it. ... More

Posted by princessa at 17:56, 27 January 2012 | Report This Post


What a SHAME!!!

Ok first and foremost if it were not for Michael Fassbender's amazing performance or Carey Mulligan this film would not hold it's interest in you for over 2 hours. At times it felt dated, and many scenes for me did not ring true. Without revealing to many spoliers his decent into male angst and sex addiction / self destruction felt exploitative, pretentious and over-cooked, this due to the directors need to stay that little bit TOO LONG in those countless sex scenes. Ok we get the message; HE... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Ramone87 at 20:53, 19 January 2012 | Report This Post


Republic of loose should have been on the soundtrack

Shame : Ross says 4 stars , Not that a star counts for much these days . The over abundance of them seems to imply “ Steer clear of this Film “ An effect that Crickets have not figured out yet for being Over Criketical . LOL Deeply Moving , Huge Impact, One of Michael Fassbenders Best performances to Date ? Is he Dating ? or is it a Little bit too Debauched with Gratuitous Mere Nudity?A single white male... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by rgod at 19:36, 18 January 2012 | Report This Post


Republic of loose should have been on the soundtrack

Shame : Ross says 4 stars , Not that a star counts for much these days . The over abundance of them seems to imply “ Steer clear of this Film “ An effect that Crickets have not figured out yet for being Over Criketical . LOL Deeply Moving , Huge Impact, One of Michael Fassbenders Best performances to Date ? Is he Dating ? or is it a Little bit too Debauched with Gratuitous Mere Nudity?A single white male... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by rgod at 19:36, 18 January 2012 | Report This Post


Republic of loose should have been on the soundtrack

Shame : Ross says 4 stars , Not that a star counts for much these days . The over abundance of them seems to imply “ Steer clear of this Film “ An effect that Crickets have not figured out yet for being Over Criketical . LOL Deeply Moving , Huge Impact, One of Michael Fassbenders Best performances to Date ? Is he Dating ? or is it a Little bit too Debauched with Gratuitous Mere Nudity?A single white male... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by rgod at 19:36, 18 January 2012 | Report This Post


Republic of loose should have been on the soundtrack

Shame : Ross says 4 stars , Not that a star counts for much these days . The over abundance of them seems to imply “ Steer clear of this Film “ An effect that Crickets have not figured out yet for being Over Criketical . LOL Deeply Moving , Huge Impact, One of Michael Fassbenders Best performances to Date ? Is he Dating ? or is it a Little bit too Debauched with Gratuitous Mere Nudity?A single white male... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by rgod at 19:36, 18 January 2012 | Report This Post


Republic of loose should have been on the soundtrack

Shame : Ross says 4 stars , Not that a star counts for much these days . The over abundance of them seems to imply “ Steer clear of this Film “ An effect that Crickets have not figured out yet for being Over Criketical . LOL Deeply Moving , Huge Impact, One of Michael Fassbenders Best performances to Date ? Is he Dating ? or is it a Little bit too Debauched with Gratuitous Mere Nudity?A single white male... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by rgod at 19:36, 18 January 2012 | Report This Post


Republic of loose should have been on the soundtrack

Shame : Ross says 4 stars , Not that a star counts for much these days . The over abundance of them seems to imply “ Steer clear of this Film “ An effect that Crickets have not figured out yet for being Over Criketical . LOL Deeply Moving , Huge Impact, One of Michael Fassbenders Best performances to Date ? Is he Dating ? or is it a Little bit too Debauched with Gratuitous Mere Nudity?A single white male... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by rgod at 19:36, 18 January 2012 | Report This Post


Overrated...

Don't believe the hype surrounding Shame. If Michael Fassbender wasn't an actor, he'd certainly carve out a living as a porn star (he's got the name for it!) And judging by his non-prosthetic manhood, it's safe to say that Professor Xavier has more than just Magneto's regular helmet to worry about! The story of a man addicted to sex isn't new and the moment when Brandon (Fass) meets up with his sister, Sissy (Carey Mulligan looking way hotter as a blonde), in what has to be one of cinemas ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by jace007 at 22:59, 15 January 2012 | Report This Post


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