Film Review: Shame

Steve McQueen’s Shame is a compelling picture. It is difficult to fault the film; it is an excellent character study.

Brandon has a good job, a great apartment in New York City, and a sex addiction. His desires are insatiable, and spill over into his professional life, although he covers his tracks. When Brandon’s sister turns up unannounced, her presence disrupts the routines he has become so used to…

Shame is wonderfully crafted by McQueen and screenwriter Abi Morgan. All the aspects combine together spectacularly; with the narrative, visuals, sound and performances creating a world of both familiarity and discomfort. In several scenes dialogue is sparse, making the conversations that take place all the more pivotal. Moreover, so much is conveyed by the speech-free scenes themselves.

In exploring the areas of sex addiction and relationship boundaries, Shame confronts some rather controversial issues. These are dealt with in an objective manner; there is no judgement or consternation here. Instead, McQueen’s film is comparable to Billy Wilder’s The Lost Weekend is carefully dealing with a topic that can be a bit of a taboo for audiences.

Imagery in the film is beautiful. There is a contrast between the sometimes graphic imagery and the beautiful cinematography that depicts it. Music is also used to great affect in the picture. One of the most memorable scenes features Sissy singing at the bar. The vocals, combined with the shots of Michael and Sissy are goose bump-inducing, such is the power of the scene.

Michael Fassbender gives a superlative performance as Brandon. No doubt much of the success of the film is due to his commanding performance. Carey Mulligan is also fantastic as Sissy.

Shame is one of this year’s must-see films. Steve McQueen’s film will stay with you long after the credits roll.

Shame is screening at the BFI London Film Festival in October 2011.