Review: Side Effects
Two years ago director Steven Soderbergh directed a film titled Contagion which touched on a very real fear in the world. Forward to present day and he is back in the directing chair for the film Side Effects which delves into the world of anti-depressant medication and the complications that follow. Even past that point, Soderbergh does a tremendous job of shedding light on how doctors have a tendency to depend on medication instead of focusing on the real problem within a person. This film as a whole has everything you want from a psychological thriller, a credible story that hits on real problems in the world today and tremendous performances from the main actors. Rooney Mara has not been in many movies, but she continues to impress in every movie she is in. It says a lot that I cannot really see any other actress in her role, and after reading up on the movie it really makes me laugh that Soderbergh initially wanted Lindsay Lohan for the role.
The film follows Emily Taylor (Mara) who visits her husband, Martin (Channing Tatum), who has been thrown in jail for insider trading. He had been put in jail for a few years and finally he had been getting out. Emily, however, seems to struggle with his return. Martin takes it as her just missing what they once had, fancy clothing and money most importantly. Emily shows symptoms of severe depression, none more so when she attempts to take her life by driving straight into a wall. When she comes to, she is in a hospital and greeted by a psychiatrist named Jonathan Banks (Jude Law). Jonathan feels that it is in Emily's best interest to be admitted into the mental ward as it is very clear she made a clear and conscious attempt on her life. She denies it explaining to him that she has had previous bouts with depression and that thinks got hectic due to the return of her husband from jail. She promises to Jonathan to check in with him on a weekly basis and even gives him the name of her previous psychiatrist, Dr. Victoria Seibert (Catherine Zeta-Jones). After a few sessions with Emily, Jonathan decides to try her on a few anti depression medications which seemingly have no affect on her. Emily hears from a friend of hers at a party of a new medication called Ablixa. Oddly enough, Jonathan meets with Dr. Seibert to discuss his new patient and a possible treatment plan for her. Dr. Seibert brings up the new medication Ablixa which in her professional experience could do a wonders for Emily. During Jonathan's next meeting with Emily, he gives her a prescription to Ablixa.
After being put on Ablixa, Emily feels better but sadly struggles with cases of sleep walking. Her relationship to her husband has gotten better on the medication, however the sleep walking incidents bother Martin. He asks to see Jonathan and tells him he doesn't understand why they have to have medication. He tells Jonathan to deal with the underlining issue instead of putting a band aid on it, which again, goes to the core issue of the film that I previously mentioned. The three of them agree to continue the treatment of Ablixa, although Emily's sleep walking habits have become a nuisance in Martin's attempts of sleep. It all unfortunately comes to a head when Martin comes home one day to find Emily once again in a deep case of sleep walking. He finds her in the kitchen cutting a tomato and he attempts to wake her up, instead she turns and stabs him in the gut. After doing so, she goes back to her bed and continues to sleep. The next day she wakes up with no recollection as to what happened and over time understands that she did it while sleep walking. The guilt begins to slowly eat away at her and decides that her husband was right, medication isn't always the best course of action. However, her schemes aren't exactly what they seem as Jonathan finds that there is much more to Emily then meets the eye.
This film is solid all across the board. It benefits from obviously a superb director in Soderbergh and an above average cast led by Rooney Mara and Jude Law. The script is tight and allows the film to move at a wonderful pace. As for the performances, again a lot can be said about the Mara and Law. Mara has a certain quality about her in this film that is mysterious, yet beautiful but all in the same vein a little scary. She excels in roles that deal with darkness inside of her character, case in point The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. Jude Law gives the film a tremendous amount of credibility in the role of the psychiatrist. Even though his character was a bit vain and pretentious, he still had enough charm to make the audience pull for him in the end when things get increasingly hectic for him. Channing Tatum and Catherine Zeta-Jones do their best in supporting roles but they are barely on screen for more then twenty minutes.