Side Effects is the latest (and possibly final) film from director Steven Soderbergh. This effort brought me through a potpourri of feelings. I found it curious, compelling, dull, thought-provoking, thrilling, tense, sexual, smart and satisfying—in that order.
This is not a film for anyone who has major issues with prescribed drugs as it starts off very much like a hidden camera expose on just how easily and carelessly we all accept these products in our lives for every malady and every occasion. The presentation of drugs is—at the same time—fairly genuine and highly disturbing.
The story has an amazing ability to lead you down a singular path story-wise only to then take a very unexpected, but better, path. The interesting part is that it then repeats the trick yet again and, once again, successfully.
This is a psychological thriller that works. It stars a charismatic Rooney Mara as Emily—a young wife who’s dealing not only with difficult life issues but also a clear chemical imbalance that makes everything that much harder. She’s lived the good life with husband Martin (Channing Tatum) until its all swept away one day by no fault of her own. The challenge of putting the pieces back together seem herculean and, when the breaking point comes, salvation potentially comes in the form of a psychiatrist by the name of Dr. Banks (Jude Law). He does everything he believes he can for her only to all have it go horribly wrong.
When negative effects do surface is the drug company at fault, the patient, the doctor or some combination (or all) of these? That’s one of the core questions you’ll be asking. And yet something kept drawing me deeper into the abyss.
Every character seems essential to the plot and that includes two key roles played by Catherine Zeta-Jones (as Emily’s first therapist) and Vinessa Shaw (as Dr. Banks ex-wife and current lover).
There are some drawbacks. The transition from what you first think it’s about to its next act drags a bit. Some of the plot elements seem a bit too convenient and one or two are resolved with an ease that pushes the boundaries but all-in-all its a nice, surprising emotional ride worth taking.