A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that the NC-17-rated Shame is all about sex addiction, and the movie is filled with nudity, destructive sexual behavior, strong simulated sex scenes, and innuendo. Some of the sex scenes play out a big roughly; there's also violence in the form of a bar fight (not entirely shown) and a bloody suicide attempt. Expect pretty frequent swearing (including "f--k" and "s--t"), plenty of drinking, and one scene in which the main character snorts cocaine.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
Brandon Sullivan (Michael Fassbender) has a problem. He can't seem to control his addiction to sex. Women throw themselves at him, and he sleeps with him. He hires prostitutes, watches porn on his computer (even at work), and masturbates compulsively. He tries to keep this life secret, but things get complicated when Brandon upsets his boss' plans to pick up a girl in a bar. The boss also discovers a cache of porn on Brandon's computer hard drive. At the same time, Brandon's sister (Carey Mulligan) arrives and asks to stay with him. This new situation, coupled with Brandon's shame and self-loathing, leads to many sibling arguments. Can she help, or will Brandon need to hit rock bottom first?
Is it any good?
Despite SHAME's graphic content, director Steve McQueen (who also directed 2008's Hunger) presents the material in a respectful, artistic manner, favoring long takes and spare dialogue. This quiet, moody film focuses more on character behavior than plot or a conclusion. Rather than a stern treatise on the dangers of sexual addiction, McQueen's approach allows viewers to enter into the situation at their own pace and find their own emotional connection.
While the movie's erotic content stands out, McQueen creates many other, memorable scenes, such as Brandon weeping at his sister sings a slow, moving rendition of "New York, New York" in a nightclub, or a mesmerizing scene in which Brandon jogs down the streets of New York for long minutes, drowning out the noise with Glenn Gould on his headphones and trying to re-focus himself. In the two lead roles, Fassbender and Mulligan tread dangerous territory, and both succeed admirably.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the movie's sexual content. What is sex addiction? Can it be treated? What are the real-life consequences of this kind of problem?
Parents, talk to your teens about your own values regarding relationships and sex, particularly when it comes to staying safe.
Where and how does the title Shame come into play?
- In theaters: December 2, 2011
- On DVD or streaming: April 17, 2012
- Cast: Carey Mulligan, James Badge Dale, Michael Fassbender
- Director: Steve McQueen
- Studio: Fox Searchlight
- Genre: Drama
- Run time: 101 minutes
- MPAA rating: NC-17
- MPAA explanation: some explicit sexual content
- Last updated: March 14, 2020
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