JESSICA Lamb reviews a controversial film

carey mulligan film review michael fassbender sex addiction shame steve mcqueen

Michael Fassbender, currently hot property in Hollywood, takes a leading role as Brandon, the thirty-something city-slicker addicted to sex, in this film by Steve McQueen. Both his performance and the film itself are incredible.

‘Shame’ is cold, clinical and extremely dark. Sex addiction is a difficult subject but as McQueen shows, there’s nothing sexy about it.


Brandon has an ultimately bleak existence. He is distant from everyone around him and unable to form normal relationships with women, including his sister. His life is controlled by a constant drive for satisfaction, presumably both physical and emotional, and yet sex -in more or less all its forms – fails to fulfill him.


Further clues to his intense unhappiness are found in his empty fridge and inability to sleep, and although he is not emotionally-forthcoming, Fassbender manages to convey a seriously tormented man.

New York provides the grey, dirty setting for Brandon’s shiny, minimalist apartment and successful career- all part of the contrast between the calm, clean surface of his life and the gritty reality of his mental state.


There’s not a huge amount of dialogue and the music is only noticeable on a couple of occasions when it is particularly powerful but this doesn’t detract from the dark emotional undercurrent.


The film doesn’t judge Brandon but follows him almost documentary-style. As there’s something of an Inception-style ending, it’s left to the audience to consider what they’ve seen. Brandon gets under your skin in the most uncomfortable way; on the one hand you can easily sympathise with him, but at the same time his actions are often cruel, predatory and indifferent.

It’s certainly not easy watching, but definitely worth it.