Shame has the same problem that all of Steve McQueen’s films thus far have had; they are all distinctly less than the sum of their parts. For all the excellence of the performances and the craft of Shame—Fassbender’s performance here may be his career best thus far—there still remains something ultimately hollow about the overall impact of the film. I don’t mean hollowness in terms of theme; I understand that’s part of the point, that Fassbender’s Brandon is an empty, emotionless shell of a human being (and great films have been made about such characters), but hollowness in terms of the film’s intellectual takeaway. On closer analysis, all of McQueen’s films, for all their art-house stylisation and intellectually weighty preoccupations, come down to being fairly obvious ‘message’ films: “addiction is shit”, “British government is shit”, “slavery is shit”. That doesn’t take away from their successes, but it probably explains why I’ve never felt personally moved by his work.