Generally favorable reviews - based on 41 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 29 out of 41
  2. Negative: 2 out of 41

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Critic Reviews

  1. Reviewed by: Mark Jenkins
    Dec 2, 2011
    It was frantic sex that earned Shame an NC-17 rating, but this arty drama is mostly slow and methodical. And thoroughly unsexy.
  2. Reviewed by: A.O. Scott
    Dec 1, 2011
    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.
  3. Reviewed by: Pete Hammond
    Nov 30, 2011
    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.
  4. Reviewed by: Steve Persall
    Feb 15, 2012
    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.
  5. Reviewed by: Wesley Morris
    Dec 8, 2011
    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.
  6. Reviewed by: Dana Stevens
    Dec 1, 2011
    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.
  7. Reviewed by: Lisa Schwarzbaum
    Nov 30, 2011
    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.
  8. Reviewed by: Rex Reed
    Nov 30, 2011
    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.
  9. Reviewed by: J. Hoberman
    Nov 29, 2011
    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.
  10. Reviewed by: Anthony Lane
    Nov 28, 2011
    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.
User Score

Generally favorable reviews- based on 258 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 39 out of 54
  2. Negative: 3 out of 54
  1. Dec 4, 2011
    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 thatShame 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
    One of the most thought provoking films regarding a subject not often talked about. Fassbender gives a truly tortured performance worthy ofOne 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
    From time to time a movie arrives in cinemas that will leave such an impression that no matter what you do, itâ