Metascore
72

Generally favorable reviews - based on 41 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 29 out of 41
  2. Negative: 2 out of 41
  1. Reviewed by: Calvin Wilson
    Jan 20, 2012
    100
    The film is a raw, unsparing look at the downside of humanity.
  2. Reviewed by: Amy Biancolli
    Dec 1, 2011
    100
    Shame has a lolling pace and stunning visual clarity. Structurally, it's close to perfect - its precision echoed in the Glenn Gould piano recordings of Bach keyboard works that Brandon listens to obsessively.
  3. Reviewed by: Roger Ebert
    Nov 30, 2011
    100
    This is a great act of filmmaking and acting. I don't believe I would be able to see it twice.
  4. Reviewed by: Todd McCarthy
    Nov 8, 2011
    100
    Driven by a brilliant, ferocious performance by Michael Fassbender, Shame is a real walk on the wild side, a scorching look at a case of sexual addiction that's as all-encompassing as a craving for drugs.
  5. Reviewed by: Andrew O'Hehir
    Nov 8, 2011
    100
    It's first and foremost a visual and sonic symphony, and a Dante-esque journey through a New York nightworld where words are mostly useless or worse.
  6. Reviewed by: Justin Chang
    Nov 8, 2011
    100
    A mesmerizing companion piece to his 2008 debut, "Hunger," this more approachable but equally uncompromising drama likewise fixes its gaze on the uses and abuses of the human body, as Michael Fassbender again strips himself down, in every way an actor can, for McQueen's rigorous but humane interrogation.
  7. Reviewed by: Kenneth Turan
    Dec 1, 2011
    90
    It is Mulligan and most especially Fassbender that give the film its power. The desperation, hostility and despair he conveys through the act of sex make Shame a film that is difficult to watch but even harder to turn away from.
  8. Reviewed by: Kimberley Jones
    Dec 15, 2011
    89
    Equally harrowing and heartrending, Shame is a film that feels akin to going into battle, and I for one didn't emerge unscathed.
  9. Reviewed by: Rene Rodriguez
    Dec 15, 2011
    88
    Shame is fearless in the way the most ambitious art often is, and to write it off for what it doesn't do is reductive and misguided. You don't just watch Shame: You feel it, too.
  10. Reviewed by: James Berardinelli
    Nov 29, 2011
    88
    It's neither glamorous nor erotic and director Steve McQueen has taken an unflinching and non-judgmental view of sexual addiction in Shame.
  11. Reviewed by: Stephanie Zacharek
    Dec 1, 2011
    85
    Mulligan is terrific here, and restrained in a way that suggests an actorly generosity unusual for someone so young: Her scenes with Fassbender don't so much say "Look at me" as "Look at him."
  12. Reviewed by: Scott Tobias
    Dec 1, 2011
    83
    McQueen is a showy director, but his bravura long takes have the effect of heightened attentiveness, allowing scenes to build in intensity without the relief of a cut.
  13. Reviewed by: Damon Wise
    Jan 9, 2012
    80
    Brave, beautifully acted and emotionally revealing - an early strong contender for the most provocative and compelling film of the year.
  14. Reviewed by: Elizabeth Weitzman
    Dec 1, 2011
    80
    These characters are stripped bare in every sense, reflecting an extreme degree of inner confusion, vulnerability and fear. Betrayed and broken as children, they now have to define and rebuild themselves as adults...Sissy turns a nightclub rendition of "New York, New York" into a heartbreaking plea.
  15. Reviewed by: Keith Uhlich
    Nov 29, 2011
    80
    Fassbender and his multifaceted allure helps counteract any thematic or conceptual shakiness, as was the case in McQueen's highly uneven debut, "Hunger." One thing's for sure: McQueen has found his De Niro, and he better keep him close.
  16. Reviewed by: Shawn Levy
    Dec 15, 2011
    75
    Resembles an amusement park ride -- a visit to a house of horrors that ends, more or less, where it begins.
  17. Reviewed by: Carrie Rickey
    Dec 8, 2011
    75
    McQueen finds the exquisite tension between the brother wanting to disconnect and the sister longing for connection. To paraphrase a line of Sissy's, it's a good movie that comes from a bad place.
  18. Reviewed by: Lou Lumenick
    Dec 2, 2011
    75
    A little humor would have helped leaven a movie that is frankly often very difficult to watch.
  19. 75
    This is an affecting picture that leaves the viewer as wrung out as the protagonist. No doubt you'll be seduced but, in the end, you may also feel abandoned.
  20. Reviewed by: Ann Hornaday
    Dec 1, 2011
    75
    Fans of Fassbender's yummy performances in this year's "Jane Eyre" and "X-Men: First Class" should be forewarned that, although we see the handsome Irish actor in the altogether, Shame is strangely un-sexy.
  21. Reviewed by: Claudia Puig
    Dec 1, 2011
    75
    Fassbender's portrayal is truly haunting, and when he sobs, dramatically unraveling, it's clear he's imprisoned by his physical urges.
  22. Reviewed by: Peter Travers
    Dec 1, 2011
    75
    Michael Fassbender delivers a bold and brilliantly immersive performance as a sex addict in Shame. He is so raw and riveting you won't be able to take your eyes off him.
  23. Reviewed by: Roger Moore
    Nov 29, 2011
    75
    Rarely has a movie been so sexual without being remotely sexy. Rarely has a guy who might be admired in a sex comedy as a "playa" seemed more pathetic with each fresh conquest.
  24. 70
    McQueen films his characters like specimens in a jar, but the stakes are so high that the actors deliver.
  25. Reviewed by: Bill Goodykoontz
    Dec 15, 2011
    70
    There is nothing erotic about it, nothing sexy, nothing but a brutish satisfying of carnal desires. Without an astounding performance from Michael Fassbender, it would be almost too painful to watch (and at times, too boring). With him, it's not exactly easy.
  26. Reviewed by: Joe Morgenstern
    Dec 1, 2011
    70
    Much of the film is banal or pretentious, or both - vacuous vignettes about emptiness. Occasionally, though, those vignettes burst into life and burn with consuming fire.
  27. Reviewed by: Richard Corliss
    Dec 1, 2011
    70
    In a movie era remarkable for its reluctance to dramatize erotic intimacy, Shame merits praise for the dark energy of its sexual encounters.
  28. Reviewed by: Mike Scott
    Feb 3, 2012
    63
    It's easy to be interested in the characters' lives -- as tragic as they are -- but it's not nearly as easy to become emotionally invested in them.
  29. Reviewed by: Michael Phillips
    Dec 1, 2011
    63
    There is a good movie to be made about someone like Brandon, especially with someone like Fassbender, a performer of exceptional technical facility and a fascinating sense of reserve. McQueen's isn't quite it.
  30. Reviewed by: Mark Jenkins
    Dec 2, 2011
    60
    It was frantic sex that earned Shame an NC-17 rating, but this arty drama is mostly slow and methodical. And thoroughly unsexy.
  31. Reviewed by: A.O. Scott
    Dec 1, 2011
    60
    How can visual pleasure communicate existential misery? It is a real and interesting challenge, and if Shame falls short of meeting it, the seriousness of its effort is hard to deny.
  32. Reviewed by: Pete Hammond
    Nov 30, 2011
    60
    Overall it's a game effort but despite its strong ambitions and provocative themes, Shame may leave you just like its main protagonist - in need of a very cold shower.
  33. Reviewed by: Steve Persall
    Feb 15, 2012
    50
    Shame smears the lines between daring and taunting, and art versus indulgence. When it ends there's the urge to take a shower, and not a cold one.
  34. Reviewed by: Wesley Morris
    Dec 8, 2011
    50
    There's a misery in Fassbender that's spellbinding. I rolled my eyes for most of Shame. But never at him. That face tells the story of addiction: the joylessness of sex.
  35. Reviewed by: Dana Stevens
    Dec 1, 2011
    50
    Michael Fassbender's portrayal of Brandon, the rootless Manhattan sex addict in Steve McQueen's Shame, may lay claim to this year's title of most outstanding performance in a mediocre movie.
  36. Reviewed by: Lisa Schwarzbaum
    Nov 30, 2011
    50
    The biggest surprise in Shame is how distanced, passionless, and merely skin-deep the director's attention is - how little he cares about the subject of his own movie.
  37. Reviewed by: Rex Reed
    Nov 30, 2011
    50
    Director McQueen shares no primal truths, offers no resolutions, and the movie seems pointless. It seems almost wicked to spread on all that enticement and titillation, and then throw the sandwich away.
  38. Reviewed by: J. Hoberman
    Nov 29, 2011
    50
    Another creature of need, if the temperamental opposite of self-contained Brandon, Sissy is equally prepared to push her way into his life or push herself in front of a subway. She's also a performer - and Mulligan's blowsy desperation makes for the movie's best turn.
  39. Reviewed by: Anthony Lane
    Nov 28, 2011
    50
    Fassbender, who was, frankly, much sexier and more devilish in "X-Men: First Class," is required to spend much of his time staring with blank intensity into the middle distance.
  40. Reviewed by: Ed Gonzalez
    Nov 9, 2011
    38
    Shame articulates a shallow, even mundane, understanding of an uninteresting man's sex addiction-in a vibrant city rendered dull and anonymous.
  41. Reviewed by: Ben Sachs
    Dec 1, 2011
    30
    Most of the film feels recycled from sexually explicit art movies dating back at least to "Last Tango in Paris" (1972) and continuing with movies like Patrice Chéreau's "Intimacy" (2001) or Götz Spielmann's "Antares" (2004). With nothing new in its characters, settings, or themes, Shame has little to offer except McQueen's style, which does little to elucidate anything around it.
User Score
7.9

Generally favorable reviews- based on 190 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 37 out of 47
  2. Negative: 2 out of 47
  1. Dec 4, 2011
    4
    Shame summarizes its own fundamental problem in Carey Mulligan's line, "We're not bad, we just come from a bad place." The bad place that Sissy and Brandon come from is where others have moved on to more au courant dysfunctions, while Brandon got left behind with a circa-1995 sex addiction and Sissy got left behind with the depression fostered by having a brother with a circa-1995 sex addiction. It's remotely possible that the movie might have made something interesting of this notion of being left behind - the unsexy out-of-dateness of Brandon's sex addiction - but Shame evinces a nearly absolute lack of self-awareness of the difficulties it brings upon itself by attempting to engage a topic that no longer has much cultural currency. There's a glimmer of promise when Brandon, on a date with his co-worker Marianne, asks her to feel a bump on the back of his head and explains, playfully, that he's a Neanderthal (and then goes on to describe the childhood mishap that actually produced the bump). It's worth noting that the exchange of dialogue in this scene is practically the only passage in the movie that doesn't feel oppressively contrived. A viewer who hasn't yet given up might suppose that Shame is finally pushing through to a recognition of Brandon as belonging to the wrong era: he has the misfortune to be the Neanderthal who survived the extinction of the culture's interest in sex addiction. All he's survived, though, in the constricted view that the movie is willing to allow itself, is a vaguely dysfunctional childhood in New Jersey. Curiously, the movie alludes ambiguously to a different (the same?) childhood in Ireland. The Irish childhood is another glimmer of promise; it suggests a whole other larger context, in which Brandon's struggles with himself derive from and are justified by a formative guilt-laden Irish Catholic upbringing (in Ireland, so much more guilt-laden than New Jersey can ever be). In this context, Brandon fits plausibly into the movie's frame because his origin is from outside the movie's setting. As a New Yorker with a sex addiction, he's an anachronism, but as an Irish immigrant, he's an outsider grappling with a plausible burden. But to make the Irish-immigrant narrative plausible, the movie would need to allow itself room to explore the larger context, and this is exactly what the movie rigorously declines to do. Full Review »
  2. Dec 3, 2011
    10
    One of the most thought provoking films regarding a subject not often talked about. Fassbender gives a truly tortured performance worthy of at least an Oscar nomination. Full Review »
  3. Jan 13, 2012
    10
    From time to time a movie arrives in cinemas that will leave such an impression that no matter what you do, itâ