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DVD Review: Shame

April 17, 2012

Shame – An Alliance Films’ Release

DVD Release Date: April 17th, 2012

Rated 18A for nudity, sexual content and disturbing content including some graphic images

Running time: 101 minutes

Steve McQueen (dir.)

Abu Morgan (writer)

Steve McQueen (writer)

Harry Escott (music)

Michael Fassbender as Brandon Sullivan

Carey Mulligan as Sissy Sullivan

James Badge Dale as David Fisher

Nicole Beharie as Marianne

Our reviews below:


Shame DVD Review By John C.

*** (out of 4)

Over the opening scene of Shame, we see the life of Brandon (Michael Fassbender).  Every morning he wakes up naked, often with a one night stand still beside him, before going to work where he surfs porn on the company computer and spends time in the bathroom with his hand down his pants.  Brandon is a sex addict skidding along rock bottom.  But his life of meaningless sex spirals even further out of control when his dangerously disinhibited and mentally ill sister Sissy (Carey Mulligan) shows up at his apartment with nowhere else to go.  A scene where Brandon watches his sister sing a slowed down version of “New York, New York” is just heartbreaking.

Although I’m not sure if I could handle a second viewing, Steve McQueen’s Shame is a believably disturbing and uncompromising minimalistic study of sex as an addiction.  There might not always appear to be much happening on the surface, but there is a lot going on as we helplessly watch two lost souls delve deeper and deeper into mental illness as they desperately seek physical contact of any kind.  This is a heavily explicit film that deserves the American NC-17 rating and won’t be for everyone, but the strong and understated performances of Michael Fassbender and Carey Mulligan keep us hooked.

The Blu-ray includes interesting interviews with both lead actors and a DVD of the film.  Also new on Blu-ray today is the equally harrowing and worth seeing 2009 film Hunger, which is also the first collaboration between Steve McQueen and Michael Fassbender.


Shame DVD Review By Erin V.  

*** (out of 4)

Shame follows Brandon (Michael Fassbender) – a sex addict.  On the outside, he has an office job and appears to be functioning, but all his spare time is spent fulfilling his addiction.  When his sister (Carey Mulligan) shows up at his place, he sees a lot of his messed up life in her.  She is on the verge of mental breakdown, drinks too much and acts inappropriately.

While Mulligan’s performance is also good, there is no doubt that this is Fassbender’s movie.  Shame feels very much like an art film, in its slow narrative pacing and stylistic shots, with a lot going on under the surface.  Still, it holds no bars when it comes to showing a stark view of its characters, with their issues and addictions.  The score by Harry Escott is interesting as well, and quite fitting to the film.

Be forewarned – this film will not be for everyone.  Or most casual moviegoers for that point.  It is a hard 18A, both for sexual content and disturbing images.  Still, for those interested in checking out director Steve McQueen’s (Hunger) latest, Shame is a good festival-style film that is interesting to see once.


Shame DVD Review By Nicole

** (out of 4)

Shame tells a disturbing tale about one of North America’s fastest growing addictions, which is nymphomania.  Brandon (Michael Fassbender) is a man living with a hard to keep secret.  He is a sex and porn addict and he can’t go a minute without looking at smut or hooking up with prostitutes.  When his equally troubled sister (Carey Mulligan) moves back in with him, things start to get even more complicated, leading up to a gruesome tragedy.

Shame is a well acted film that raises a lot of questions about our society’s obsession with sex.  However, it is very dark and quite graphic, depicting the ugliness of addiction, making it unpleasant to watch.  Shame is worth checking out if you have an interest in psychology, but it is not one you will want to rewatch.


Shame DVD Review By Maureen

** (out of 4)

Shame is a dark and brooding depiction of two people whose lives are on a downward spiral as they each become consumed by their personal demons.  Brandon (Michael Fassbender) is thirty-something and single.  By day he is a successful New York executive.  By night he is a man who has become a slave to his sex addiction.  Brandon has one-night stands, male and female, uses hookers and internet porn.  However, he is never fully satisfied.  It’s obvious Brandon is emotionally disturbed.  When his sister, Sissy (Carey Mulligan) shows up on his doorstep with her own dark emotional difficulties, Brandon’s further drawn into his addiction.

Shame has an arthouse feel to it, with long brooding shots, some interesting use of mirrors and reflections and segments where the “dialogue” is all visual.  These are its strengths.  The performances by the two leads are also strong.  However, I found Shame too gritty and dark for my liking.  This is a film without any glimmer of hope for either character.  It is a hard movie to watch and not one that I would personally revisit, but mature Michael Fassbender fans may want to check out Shame for his intense role.


Shame DVD Review By Tony

***1/2 (out of 4)

Shame is an apt title for a film in which Brandon Sullivan (Michael Fassbender) is quietly living with sex addiction. His Manhattan apartment cupboards stacked with porn and home and work computers almost constantly on sex sites, Brandon is always looking for the next fix, even on the subway. When his kid sister Sissy (Carey Mulligan), desperately trying to survive her own issues, shows up to stay with him, Brandon feels at once protective and disgusted, especially when Sissy jumps into Brandon’s bed with his vulgar married philandering boss (James Badge Dale). An encounter with a coworker (Nicole Beharie) is physically less satisfying than the frequent joyless self-release and random tricks.

Director Steve McQueen and Michael Fassbender have courageously captured the misery of Brandon’s daily existence. Carey Mulligan is also impressive, her pain brilliantly brought out not only by words and actions but also in a slow nightclub rendition (like Annie Hall) of New York New York. The frequent sex scenes, however vigorous, mainly spare us from crucial details below the waist. Even the notorious full frontal shot as Brandon first gets out of bed is in fact brief and shadowed, notable for me as the only time he visits the bathroom just to pee. The overall mood of quiet desperation is reflected in the score, with original minimalist music by Harry Escott and classics played by Glenn Gould and others.

For all its admirable qualities, I found watching Shame, like Precious, was admittedly a rewarding but difficult experience that I am glad to have had just once.


Consensus: The uncompromising and disturbing tone of Steve McQueen’s Shame won’t be for everyone, but Michael Fassbender and Carey Mulligan turn in strong and understated performances as two characters delving deeper into addiction.  **3/4 (Out of 4)

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