My question is about a scene in the movie Shame starring Michael Fassbender and Carey Mulligan directed by Steve McQueen.

Train Scene 1: In the beginning of the movie, Brandon (Michael Fassbender) is in a subway and while travelling he keeps looking at a very attractive woman and the woman also responds to him with smile and all of a sudden her smile turns into a serious expression and tries to leave the train and Brandon follows her to catch her but she disappears in the crowd.

My analysis: In the train, The attractive lady is also into Brandon but suddenly she realizes that she's married, (I assumed it, since she's wearing two rings.) so she feels guilty for responding to a random person and leaves the train to escape from Brandon.

Train Scene 2: In the ending of the movie, again Brandon and the attractive lady starts looking at each other. This time, the woman holds on to a pole and she wears only one ring.

My analysis: As she's wearing one ring this time, my brain told me that she's not married any more and not guilty to get close to Brandon.

My question is, whether my analysis is correct or not? If it's correct, Why the director made the scene so complex to understand by making the lady character to wear two rings in the beginning and one ring later? Why can't simply make the woman to wear one ring in the beginning and no ring later so that audience can understand that the lady is neither married nor guilty to get close to Brandon since both are into each other.

  • In my opinion your analysis is correct but hoping someone else can give more elaborated approach.
    – Ankit Sharma
    Feb 25, 2014 at 8:38
  • Even I expected no ring to be on her finger, but when there was one ring, I was a bit confused. But I also agree with the accepted answer. Maybe it simply suggests that she has embraced who she is.
    – IcyFlame
    Sep 18, 2015 at 19:26
  • I think these are all great answers and I believe the makers of the film intended for a discussion such as this to take place. In regards to the second ring (apparently her engagement ring) that is absent in the second train scene, I personally believe that it's disappearance signifies that this woman is out of the so called "honeymoon" phase of her relationship with her partner and therefore more likely to cheat on them with Michael Fassbender.
    – user33905
    Apr 27, 2016 at 3:07

10 Answers 10


I'm not sure that the rings bear as much significance as you're inferring.

Why, for example, do two rings mean someone is married, but one rings doesn't? To indicate someone is married, she (Lucy Walters) need only wear one ring: her wedding ring. In the first scene she is also wearing her engagement ring, but this doesn't neccesarily indicate anything further. The fact that she still wears a ring in the second scene doesn't do anything to imply she is divorced.

The first scene is a silent correspondence between the two, a negotiation of intent. The smiles indicate they are attracted to one another, and as the girl closes her thighs over her hands she indicates some sexual repression, the proximity of her hands to her crotch suggesting sexual stimulation.

She then considers something, and feels the titular shame of the Movie. Standing up to leave the train, she shows Brandon she is married by revealing her rings. He stands behind her, placing his hand underneath hers (in simulation of holding her hand) as if to indicate he still wants her and is uncaring as to her marital status. His proximity possibly suggests he wishes the altercation to be sexual charged, not neccesarily emotional.

As she leaves the train, he follows her, in pursuit. This is at the start of the scene , and establishes Brandon as sexually predatory..

The end of the film shows a reversal of this situation, and the second subway scene is telling.

She has obviously been on some kind of sexual journey too, but the culmination of her experiences has brought her back to Brandon. Part of the enigma of the film is the fact that we don't know what's happened to this woman and what has made her re-approach her stance on soliciting strangers for sex. She has somehow, become more like Brandon.

The fact that she still wears a ring on this finger indicates that she is still married. She has just embraced her infidelity, and wishes to explore the experience of it. The fact we see her ring is, I think, supposed to be a visual motif the audience will attach to this non-speaking, ambiguous (but still important!) character so the audience recognizes her and completes the cyclic narrative of the Movie.

I don't think the rings (and their amount) indicate anything beyond the obvious, and as a narrative technique.


Unless I have seen a different movie cut than you guys have, I am pretty sure that in the last scene she is still wearing both rings (if you guys can pause the scene you will be able to see) only in a different order. Which brings the question to another direction... What does the switched ring order means after all?

  • 1
    Can you provide screenshot
    – Ankit Sharma
    Aug 29, 2016 at 6:36
  • 1
    Sure, here it is: [FIRST SCENE] (prnt.sc/cbxpgh) and then, switched on the [LAST SCENE] (prnt.sc/cbxnqt)
    – Erick Riul
    Aug 30, 2016 at 3:32
  • Nice observation! I would think that the reversed order reflect her reversed position on fooling around: she is now open to it. So then the main character is in the position of deciding if he still wants to pursue her.
    – Shiz Z.
    Nov 12, 2016 at 17:26

I think that she is often takig them both off - that's why their order is reversed - by accident, she does it in hurry, she dosn't pay much attention to it, she is focused on something else ;)

  • Thank you for assisting the community. Ideas for framing an answer may include describing your sources along with a synopsis of what they said, and/or adding links to the resources and visuals you’ve found. I hope you enjoy participating.
    – John
    Nov 12, 2016 at 13:39

I think it can also be linked to what Brandon said to his sister -- that she didn't notice that Brandon's had an engagement ring, and in that final scene it lets us think if he learned from his own words, and will not attempt doing the same stuff that his sister did which he considers wrong.


I think the two rings is a visual metaphor that symbolizes the union of two people through marriage, i.e, total commitment as in mentally and physically. The one ring symbolizes the detachment of one of the two sides from the union/marriage, i.e, Lucy Walters' character asserting 'although I am married I am not necessarily exclusively physically linked to my partner any more'. hope this helps.


You need to diferenciate between a wedding ring and an engagement ring. In the first scene she is wearing both, then only the engagement one. The wedding ring (in Spanish "alianza", which meand union) becomes a symbol exactly of that, been real to that relationship. I think the interesting point of that scene is trying to understand the empty glare of Brandon, not the woman who is obvious trying to suck his balls, with her lips painted and her attitude. Great job, Michael & soundtrack guys.


After he himself went on a sex-bender while ignoring his sister, we can see he makes a resolve to change himself. The end where the woman flirts with him is an open ending in whether he'll be able to maintain his resolve or succumb to his addiction.


It's an open ending. He's confronted the addiction. Something might change, judging by his expression. He breaks his own stare at that woman momentarily which suggests he's at least thinking and not on automatic sex-rut.

  • 2
    Thank you for assisting the community. Ideas for framing an answer may include describing your sources along with a synopsis of what they said, and/or adding links to the resources and visuals you’ve found. I hope you enjoy participating.
    – John
    Nov 6, 2016 at 18:25

If the ring does indeed matter, and as everyone knows directors don't do these things on accident, then perhaps it is to show that it would be easier for Brandon to act on his impulses as he always has. She would be more willing. I like to think that his not immediately grabbing the pole as in the first train scene means that the near-death of his sister shocked him into the realization that what he had become a slave to was destroying his life and those around him. It certainly seemed that way when he was walking and broke down. I believe also that the directors wanted discussion such as this, and there may be no truly correct answer, but preferred interpretations. I really hope he didn't go for her after everything he had just gone through. If not, it would seem he did have his epiphany.


When the lady realises that Brandon is looking at her. She acknowledges that and smiles at him .But Brandon's continuous ogling at her (afterwards her thighs) makes her uncomfortable , then she shows Brandon her ring (to let him know that she's married), but still Brandon continues. After all this, she gets up and leaves the train because she doesn't like the way Brandon ise looking at her. At the end, again the same thing happens but this time the question is, will Brandon continue his pursuit of the lady after realizing that she is married and has a family (he tried to explain Sissy the same thing, when she slept with David)

The ending is not clear, it has been left to the viewers discretion, it's open, and the viewers can analyze it themselves.

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