Film review: Shame (18)

07:00 11 January 2012

Michael Fassbender, left, as Brandon and Carey Mulligan as Sissy in Shame.

Michael Fassbender, left, as Brandon and Carey Mulligan as Sissy in Shame.

Archant

Perhaps deliberately timed to coincide with the bleakest of seasons, Londoner Steve McQueen brings us his latest harrowing psychological drama, starring Michael Fassbender and Carey Mulligan.

McQueen, who also takes co-writing credits here, memorably brought us Hunger in 2008, the uncompromising take on the IRA hunger strike in the Maze prison in 1981. Fassbender returns with an equally intense performance as the star in Shame.

He plays Brandon Sullivan, a yuppie marketing exec in NYC living in a glossy apartment and wrestling with sex addiction.

And yes, it features acres of flesh and sex scenes aplenty, following Sullivan’s dysfunctional life trying to juggle a high-flying career with a penchant for women and every shade of porn.

But don’t expect titillation; Shame is built upon an almost unrelentingly bleak worldview.

The primeval funk of sex surrounds Sullivan - from his philandering boss to hookers and horny married women on the Tube - devouring all else and reducing him to a pitiful figure.

It’s hard not to feel genuine sympathy as he scours the internet for porn, picks up women in bars, pays for sex or plays voyeur amid New York’s anonymous high-rise glass apartments.

But it’s Mulligan captivating performance as Sullivan’s wayward sister Sissy - part-singer, part good-time girl - who provides the key to the plot, arriving on his doorstep just as his life starts to unravel.

As Sullivan slips further into the abyss and the siblings’ dark secrets are hinted at, what ensues is one of the most absorbing, unsettling and gripping films you’re likely to see this year.

McQueen’s unflinching camera blurs intimacy and intusion with long, lingering close-ups and one-take scenes that are often as engrossing as they are disconcerting to watch, stripping away the city’s veneer of racy glamour to reveal a cold, unfriendly metropolis populated by impulsive, damaged souls.

Yes, it’s a depressing, narrowly-focused commentary on today’s moral climate, but unblinking camerawork and absorbing, accomplished performances will have you glued throughout.

-Stephen Moore

Sign up for our news alerts today!

Our editors' picks for the day's top news delivered to your inbox or phone.

Sign up for email alerts Sign up for mobile alerts
1
2 3 4 5 6
7

Latest Stories from SNAP.PA

Forget the box of chocolates, bouquet of red roses and bottle of wine – these are the only thing you need!

Read more

“I know I spend way too much time on Facebook, an unhealthy amount,” begins Ffion’s frank assessment.

Read more

Promoted content

Valentine's Day Afternoon Tea

London Hilton on Park Lane is inviting couples to celebrate this Valentines Day over a deliciously romantic afternoon tea at Podium Restaurant and Bar. Taking inspiration from the highly popular Confessions of a Chocoholic Afternoon Tea, London Hilton on Park Lane presents the ultimate romantic afternoon out with its Valentine’s Day Afternoon Tea.

Established in 1987, Tucci is one of the North's premier stores for branded clothing, footwear and accessories.

Save up to 70% on designer brands for Men and Women, including G-Star, Diesel, French Connection, Firetrap and many more….our sale is now on.

Nothing says

iWOOT has a great selection of quirky Valentine’s Day gifts for every possible person and partner.

Top Stories

Quizzes

How well do you really know the Tube map?

Everybody thinks they know the Tube map but do you really?

Read more
[Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images]

It’s time to test your knowledge on the two London institutions: the Underground, and the boozer.

Read more
Adrian Chiles is no longer ITV's main man... so why not test your knowledge of some of his (and others') greatest gaffes? (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

With news of presenter Adrian Chiles’ sacking by ITV, it’s a good time to remember some of the most memorable punditry blunders.

Read more