Steve McQueen’s Shame, the portrait of a New York sex addict, fits squarely into the category of missed opportunity: despite a myriad of strong attributes, it’s an incredibly shallow depiction of a seriously fascinating topic. First, the pluses: Michael Fassbender is dazzling as Brandon, the sex-starved protagonist whose isolated existence is thrown into a tizzy when his similarly fucked-up-but-in-a-different-way sister Sissy (Carey Mulligan) shows up at his door with nowhere else to go. Suddenly, Brandon’s day-to-day routine is entirely disrupted. He can’t have sexual video chats on his laptop because Sissy’s fucking his boss in his bedroom. He can’t masturbate without the risk of his sister walking in on him. For all effective purposes, he can’t be anymore, and like a heroin addict separated from his needle, he begins to spiral out of control. All this sounds much more gripping than it actually is, though. McQueen is a very talented director, and that comes through in his visual choices—New York City pulsates with nervous energy through his lens, as it should, and several long takes are hypnotic—and the soundtrack is fantastic. But the writing barely scratches the surface of what should have been a terrific subject. Despite Fassbender’s best efforts, Brandon just isn’t that interesting of a character; he’s simply a man with an addiction. Two terrific sequences with a beautiful co-worker whom he attempts to emotionally engage with—and subsequently can’t perform sexually—hint at what could have been, but we’re mostly given what we’d expect to see from someone with Brandon’s disorder: compulsive behavior regardless of venue, a foray into the homosexual world. It’s the equivalent of seeing a drunkard sneak a shot of tequila in a back room. Would large swaths of critics be impressed with a standard depiction of an alcoholic or chain smoker? We’re also teased with a childhood cause for Brandon and Sissy’s emotional disorders—sexual molestation, perhaps?—but it’s never appropriately explored, and doesn’t achieve anything lingering so far in the background. Fassbender and McQueen’s skillset keep Shame from being a waste of time, but its bland presentation of a dark, intense condition prevents it from being something special.