In theaters now
the NC-17 Shame depicts in grim, graphic detail the downward spiral of Manhattan sex ad-dict Brandon (Michael Fassbender). He's terrified of intimacy, and his inability to feel extends to his sister Sissy (Carey Mulligan), a needy, suicidal lounge singer. Director Steve McQueen doesn't explain Brandon's pathology: the film is as deliberately devoid of psychology as it is of actual eroticism. McQueen knows how to create bold, memorable images, but the ideas behind them are punitive and banal. Solemnly portentous, Shame asks us to take this hollow man's joyless pursuit of sex as a trenchant metaphor for our soulless, de-racinated modern world. That's a lot of heaviness to hang on one sad, sketchily conceived sex addict.