Home  Contact Phil


Phil Mellows is a freelance journalist living in Brighton




Directed by Steve McQueen (2011)

Shortly before the end of Shame, when I still hadn't properly made up my mind what I thought of it, the cinema suffered a power cut and we were all sent home. It was what Brandon Sullivan might appreciate as a variety of coitus interruptus.

Brandon (Michael Fassbender) is a kind of Patrick Bateman figure, without the killing and with one mighty conscience. He's got a good job, he's handsome, and he's living the life of a successful New Yorker.

Big cities are conducive to secret lives, though, and his wealth and good looks enable him to privately pursue his hobby of sex without strings, whether its with willing partners or with the aid of the sex industry.

Shame has been routinely described as a film about sex addiction, which probably gets bums on seats. But it actually is about shame. It does what is says on the tin. Unless I missed something at the end, Brandon never really does anything that terrible. It's his shame that's the problem.

Certainly his sins pale in comparison to those of his boss David (James Badge Dale). As well as being a bit of an arse, David behaves despicably, betraying a wife and family and noisily shagging Brandon's visiting sister Cissy in his bed while Brandon bangs the walls in the next room. And he does it oblivious to the idea his selfish actions might affect other people. He is, literally, shameless.

In contrast, Brandon is wracked with guilt. The film opens with him staring blankly at the ceiling, corpse-like in his abjection.

When Sissy (Carey Mulligan) walks in on a wank we do see a nasty side. But his anger is born of self-hate. Afterwards he throws out his voluminous porn-stash.

Sissy has her problems, too, obsessing over men she can't have. It must run in the family.

She vents her pain through singing, and invites her brother and his boss to a gig where she delivers a slow, agonising rendition of New York, New York, drawing out the sour side of the city that never sleeps, all the broken promises of happiness.

As Dave gleefully points out, this jerks a tear from the mostly emotionless Brandon who has to hide his shameful humanity with a trip to the bathroom.

We also see him nearly having a 'normal' relationship. On a proper date with Marianne (Nicole Behari), the nice woman at work, he is charming, relaxed, funny. But when it comes to sex he can't perform with her.

This cause for more shame is doubled when, as soon as she leaves, he orders a prostitute. He's damned because he doesn't get it up and damned because he does.

At the moment the projector sputtered to a halt, Brandon's fate hung in the balance.

Will he finally be nice to his sister? Will he do himself a favour and be nice to himself? Or will he crack and do something that betrays our sympathy?

Please let me know.

January 26, 2012

Back to Reviews



Writing... Journalism... Research... Awards Judging... Pub Business Advice... Pub Crawls
Contact Phil