Shame

2011

Shame

Critics Consensus

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

79%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 216

75%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 31,239
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Movie Info

Brandon (Michael Fassbender) 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. -- (C) Official Site

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Cast

Hannah Ware
as Samantha
Lucy Walters
as Pretty subway girl
Marta Milans
as Cocktail Waitress
Charisse Merman
as Live Chat Woman
Amy Hargreaves
as Hotel Lover
Chazz Menendez
as Muscular Boyfriend
Carl Low
as Bouncer
Calamity Chang
as Late Night Lover #1
DeeDee Luxe
as Late Night Lover #2
Wenne Alton Davis
as Police Officer
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News & Interviews for Shame

Critic Reviews for Shame

All Critics (216) | Top Critics (49)

  • The film's numb attitude assumes that Brandon's problem is beyond reach or rescue. So why are we watching, except for high-tone misery and something close to pornography?

    Jun 20, 2013 | Full Review…
  • The film is a raw, unsparing look at the downside of humanity.

    Jan 20, 2012 | Rating: 4/4 | Full Review…
  • With tremendous performances from Fassbender and Mulligan, and such superb technique from McQueen, this is a horrible inferno.

    Jan 12, 2012 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…
  • By turns raw, elegant and uncompromising. An assured companion piece to Hunger, if not a significant progression.

    Jan 12, 2012 | Rating: 3/5 | Full Review…
  • It reconfirms McQueen as a filmmaker with an unflinching, microscopic gaze on the world.

    Jan 10, 2012 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…

    Dave Calhoun

    Time Out
    Top Critic
  • Few filmmakers have plumbed the soul-churning depths of sexual addiction as fearlessly as British director Steve McQueen has in Shame.

    Dec 29, 2011 | Full Review…

    Justin Chang

    Variety
    Top Critic

Audience Reviews for Shame

  • Jul 26, 2018
    A close and realistic look at the fact that the worst terror in life happens inside a soul. Fassbender and Mulligan are two grownups, brother and sister, trying to a) be normal while b) dealing with some unspeakable familial trauma from their childhood that absolutely wrecked their psyches. Both are drowning and neither has a working solution. There's little to be hopeful for. This stark portrayal of real life might be too harrowing for some, but the power of the artistry presenting this reality cannot be denied.
    Kevin M. W Super Reviewer
  • Aug 16, 2017
    Shame is provocative, seductive and unforgettable. Wow. This was an outstanding film in both the acting and technical categories. I warn you, this is a heavy film and is 18 rated for a reason. Naked bodies left, right and centre. This is an uneasy story about the nature of need, being desired by other people and actually wanting to matter in life. We follow a middle aged man who lives a precarious yet carefully managed lifestyle. His sister comes along and he is unable to control it. Both of their lives spiral out of control. Brandon's addiction for sex and pleasure becomes unbearable as he does whatever he can to fulfil his requirements. Sissy's love life is unrepairable and she relies on Brandon to try and help her, but he views her as a burden. The consequences are horrifying to watch, this is an extremely powerful drama. We do not hate either of these characters. We may not understand them fully but instead we empathise with them. These are dark moments in their lives and yet the phenomenal portrayals by Michael Fassbender and Carey Mulligan convey a type of depression to an extent. Sex addiction, or any addiction, can and will destroy parts of your life. Social, career, family...all these important elements slowly crumbling away due to something that you just cannot control. The inner torment that Fassbender is able to express was palpable, sheer masterclass in acting. Director Steve McQueen was the standout. This was the very definition of confident filmmaking. So many long takes where the characters just come alive on screen. A 2/3 minute shot of Mulligan singing to then cut to a 2/3 minute shot of Fassbender becoming emotional. A technically perfect tracking shot of Fassbender jogging down a street. A 5 minute take where Fassbender is on a date. I was in awe of McQueen's style, adored every scene. The ending may not have been as hard hitting as I had hoped for, but still poignant nonetheless. A delicate subject matter explored thoroughly and intricately, driven by fantastic performances and perfect directing. Loved it.
    Luke A Super Reviewer
  • Mar 26, 2014
    "Now there's a lifestyle with painted lips, now there's a lifestyle, but it don't exist, and I say shame in the dancehalls and the cinemas!" Oh, shame on me for referencing the Eurythmics, although that's not to say that Michael Fassbender shouldn't be ashamed... and I'm, uh, like, totally not just saying that because I can't give Fassbender a high five, seeing as how I don't really want to touch him after this film. Okay, perverted men, we can go on and on joking about how sex isn't a real addiction, but this film really shows that this guy has one seriously big p-p-p-p-p-problem (Yeah, there we go, that was close), and it only had to break down censorship barriers in order to get as excessive as it possibly can to do so. I don't really know how it would have to go that far, because if anyone can figure out a way to make this much sex not particularly fun, I'd figure it would be the guy who did "Hunger". Oh, wow, this film is a whole lot more interesting than "Hunger", although, to be fair, as much nudity as there was in "Hunger", it was just that of a bunch of starving Irish guys who were getting pummeled by cops in the middle of a prison... for a a reason... I think. It's interesting how that film was both wholly underdeveloped and unsubtle at the same time, pretty much to ensure that it would be all but entirely ineffective, although that's not to say that this film is much more subtle. I mean, don't get me wrong, this film is decent, and that's more than I'd expect from the guy who did "Hunger", but, not unlike Fassbender's Brandon Sullivan character, it has a few aspects to be sort of ashamed of, including something that Sullivan doesn't appear to have: dry spells. With this sophomore effort, British filmmaker Steve McQueen really changes pace from "Hunger" by taking on a more traditional storytelling structure, rather than that abstractionist, overly atmospheric nonsense that he was trying to pass off as art, rather than tedium, in his previous project, yet he still can't completely wash away that arty dryness, at least from an atmosphere that, while generally pretty engaging, if not entertaining in its thoughtfulness, has cold spells to retard momentum. Of course, when McQueen's artistic license also works its way through the atmosphere and into the overall structure of the film, that's where problems really kick in, not necessarily because storytelling gets too abstractionist for its own good, but because when storytelling style shifts from a more traditionalist format, it tends to jar into aimless meditations upon not much of anything going on, ostensibly simply in an attempt to go off the usual beat and path. Alas, the film can stray away from storytelling conventions for only so long before it comes back and hits tropes we've come to expect from films of this type, and kind of hard, which would be easier to forgive if the formulaic path that it usually follows when it isn't getting kind of carried away with its artistic ambitions didn't stretch on for too long. At just over 100 minutes, the film isn't particularly lengthy, and yet, it still outstays it welcome, not sometimes, but often, and not with excess material, but with excess filler, which ranges from dialogue pieces of limited consequence, to meditations upon nothing at all. Perhaps the biggest consequential issue in this drama is repetition, and boy, it sure is a sizable one, which thins a sense of progression until the film slips so deeply into unfocused aimlessness that it doesn't even focus on its themes all that greatly (Sorry, creeps, but there aren't very many sex scenes), while providing you plenty of time to think about how limited the dramatic and thematic weight is to begin with. Now, when I deem repetition the biggest consequential issue, I don't mean that it's the biggest issue overall, because it's natural shortcomings that really hold back this minimalist, perhaps overly realist drama of limited conceptual momentum, further retarded by all of the storytelling unevenness and dragging which ultimately prevent the final product from truly rewarding. Of course, the film all but rewards, and while that's not enough to make a thoroughly compelling drama, it does do what it can with this subject matter, while at least standing out stylistically. There's something often naturalistically flat about Sean Bobbitt's cinematography, although when coloration and lighting are right, they're all but impeccable in their haunting smoothness, and yet, even more aesthetically solid is Harry Escott's score, which may also be even less played upon than highlights in Bobbitt's visual style, but has a brooding ambient style about it that, when joined by some unoriginal classical pieces, is just plain haunting, and well worth waiting for. The score, when utilized, either in the context of dramatic height or artistic meditation, really draws you in, and major heights in visual style also immerse reasonably well, so aesthetically speaking, the final product is pretty solid, even though it often kind of falls short on delivering on all that much substance. Of course, it's not like style isn't well-orchestrated in the context of substance, as I more-or-less just said through my complimenting of style's complimenting dramatic immersion value, and for this, credit is due to Steve McQueen, whose directorial style has not completely abandoned the artistically overblown grime which plagued "Hunger", but really tones it down for the sake of more realized thoughtfulness that strikes with human resonance, at least when material really kicks in. Material kicks in only so often, even in concept, as this is a minimalist drama whose weight is further softened by a repetitiously overdrawn scripted interpretation, yet at the same time, if there is meat to this drama which is indeed weighty with themes on entrapment within personal shortcomings, then McQueen's and Abi Morgan's script draws on it, and when it doesn't, it keeps you going with plenty of clever dialogue and subtle characterization. Not much goes on in this film, yet the wit is firm enough to sustain a certain degree of entertainment value much more often than not, and when dramatic material does, in fact, kick in, inspiration to writing and direction hits pretty hard with resonance, anchored by worthy performances. Being that there's not much material to begin with in this minimalist drama, really heavy acting material is all but scarce, yet when it is found, you can find highlights in across-the-board consistently charismatic performances, particularly from a cute Carey Mulligan whose sense of vulnerability and emotional layers sell the instability of the Sissy Sullivan character, while the Brandon Sullivan character goes brought to life by a lead performance by Michael Fassbender whose subtle intensity consistently draws you to the lead, until emotional heights punctuate the depths of a flawed man of addiction and, of course, shame. Fassbender has revelatory moments amidst a performance which is generally too subdued to stand out, yet there's always something engaging about this performance, just as there's always something engaging about McQueen's performance, and while engagement value is ultimately too limited for the final product to achieve its full potential, however limited, the final product comes close enough to rewarding to hold your attention, and reflect potential in McQueen as a filmmaker. In conclusion, dry spells and occasions of getting carried away with artistic meditations upon nothingness present unevenness in a storytelling style that is at least consistent enough in conventions and repetitious dragging for you to get a feel for the natural shortcomings that hold the minimalist final product back from a rewarding state that is almost gained through the haunting cinematography and score work, thoughtful direction, clever writing and strong acting - particularly by Carey Mulligan and Michael Fassbender - that make Steve McQueen's "Shame" an intriguing and sometimes powerful, if generally improvable portrait on the vulnerability of those trapped within their own obsessions and other flaws. 2.75/5 - Decent
    Cameron J Super Reviewer
  • Dec 27, 2013
    What a powerful film. McQueen addresses a serious addiction with a very serious and honest precision, discreetly encapsulating the devastating repercussions in a personal life: work relationships, acquaintances, and most importantly, family bonds. McQueen also scatters clues and hints into what seems to be an intentionally incomplete, yet challenging and thought-provoking character study. The sexual addiction seems to be indicated by very clear and explicit hints, and some of them are left to the imagination. However, when our imagination fills the untold parts of the main character's past life, none of our speculations are pretty. The key part is when Sissy says to Brandon: "We are not bad people. We just come from a bad place." Such bad place seems to be either family-related or childhood-related, maybe referring to the geographical location in which both grew up as kids. Fassbender, now on his moment of international stardom, provides an immaculate portrayal as a successful businessmen living in wealth, loneliness and surrounded by pornographic content. McQueen does not forget that addictions are sicknesses as well; however, the main danger about addictions stemming from modern frequent habits (such as alcohol, drug consumption and sex) is that most of the symptoms and consequences, excluding those physically manifested, are psychological, intangible and long-term. It is when one arrives to a certain point of life when looking back at all of those lost years seems like a horrifying, inevitable waste of life. The ending remains clear. It is a statement. The first step in the process of destroying an addiction is the acceptance of its existence. I see several people commenting that they never saw an "addiction" in the film. That is extremely alarming. Either it is because of denial that they are in the same situation, or they are unaware of their own troubles and of the extent of an addiction. This message should be a wake-up call for the 21st Century, because the <i>Gimme Shelter</i> times are evidence of a point of no return and of spoiled (parental) generations. 97/100
    Edgar C Super Reviewer

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