Movie Review: Shame [R18+]

Director: Steve McQueen
Starring: Michael Fassbender, Carey Mulligan
Running Time: 101 minutes
Release Date: In Cinemas Now (Limited Release)

I was desperate to see this movie and I had very high expectations. Everyone was talking about it and Fassbender had been nominated for a slew of major awards for his role as Brandon. I have been a Fassbender fan since his Hex (TV Series) days but had seen and heard little of him…until recently. And now he is heir-apparent to Daniel Day-Lewis’ title of ‘the actor’s actor’. Warranted? Well that’s another discussion entirely…

Brandon Sullivan (Fassbender) is a 30 something man living a quiet, successful life in New York City. But Brandon harbours a deep, dark, dangerous secret and an unexpected visit by his wayward sister Sissy (Mulligan) threatens to throws his carefully constructed existence into complete turmoil.


And carefully constructed it is. He lives in an almost sterile environment, devoid of anything other than the most basic human necessities. His office is more of the same…efficient and cold. His interactions with others appear normal but his thoughts never stray far from his dark secret. Brandon is a sex addict and his every waking moment is consumed by his addiction.

There is lots and lots of sex in this movie. Sex scenes, porn mags, online porn sites…you get the picture. But I have never seen a movie that is less about sex. Sex is simply the addiction that Brandon is compelled to feed. He could have been an alcoholic or drug addict. He can easily hide his addiction because it doesn’t make him drunk or stoned or high. In fact, he can feed the beast anytime he wants. In this modern world of online porn and one night stands, it’s all too easy.

Then Sissy shows up and things take a drastic turn. From the very first scene they shared, it was clear that something is very, very wrong with this pair of siblings. Sissy is as needy and as dysfunctional as any woman I have ever seen. She is also as vulnerable as a tiny child.

Sissy is a lounge singer and when she takes to the stage for a slow, haunting rendition of the classic New York, New York…well words cannot describe it. Sissy is raw. Raw and wounded. The scene was filmed at 3am and the reactions are real. None of the other actors had heard Mulligan sing so what you see is not acting.

This is not a movie for everyone. In fact, as I watched the first 30 minutes or so I was starting to worry that I just wasn’t getting it. I mean, I was captivated but it just wasn’t this great masterpiece I was led to believe it would be.

(Just to clarify, as my regular readers would know, I am not one of those pretentious and oh-so-precious reviewers who bleats on about the existential dilemma of life through the protagonist’s jaded eyes blah blah blah…I leave that type of review to those who feel the need)


Then I did start to get it. Brandon’s dead, soulless eyes. His lack of connection, any connection, with his sexual partner/s. His fumbling attempts to seduce a woman he was genuinely interested in. His need for thrills, for danger. His endless search for release because it does become clear that it is not the intimacy or the thrill of a new sexual conquest that Brandon needs, but the release an orgasm provides. That is his addiction.

The last 15 minutes of this movie will captivate you. Both Brandon and Sissy are so damaged, such broken human beings that I found myself in tears. Not sad tears but the tears for characters that have just broken your heart. Yes, heartbroken.

As I said, this movie is not for everyone and the reasons I went to see it (mostly being a fan of Michael Fassbender) are not the reasons I am glad I did. The fact that he was overlooked for an Oscar nod this year while he was nominated for almost everything else (Golden Globe, BAFTA, AFI to name a few) must be one of the greatest travesties in recent cinema history. Fassbender is quite simply extraordinary and I can only assume, as so many others do, that the nudity and sex lost him this most coveted of nominations.

Please do try to see this movie but know what you are going to see as it will stay with you long after the movie has ended.

One thought on “Movie Review: Shame [R18+]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *