SIDE EFFECTS (Steven Soderbergh, 2013)


Martin Taylor (Channing Tatum) is finally released after serving four years' time for insider trading. He goes home to his wife Emily (Rooney Mara), a now distant, depressed and suicidal woman. After Emily intently drives her car against a wall, a psychiatrist- Dr. Jonathan Banks (Jude Law) is assigned to her care. Banks fears for her safety, and he should because for the entirety of the movie, Emily is a walking time bomb. Mara perfectly captures the psychological state of an unstable woman, and writer Scott Z. Burns and director Steven Soderbergh takes us on an uncertain ride filled with double twists and role reversals. 

The shit hits the fan when Banks allows Emily to take a new prescription drug called Ablixa to cure depression, after a recommendation by Emily's former psychiatrist Dr. Victoria Siebert (Catherine Zeta-Jones). The depression is cured, and Emily finally recovers her sex drive, but the pill has many dangerous side effects.

By the first half of the movie, Soderbergh throws in a huge plot surprise, setting things in motion. Suddenly, the dramatic mood of the film becomes a high stakes Hitchcockian thriller. 

Aside from the meaty plot that although talkative, is never boring, fantastic to observe as well is the cinematography, which is also done by Soderbergh (under the name Peter Andrews). At most times, his camera takes on the voyeur approach, making us watchful accomplices, or witnesses if you will, themes he so greatly discussed in SEX, LIES, AND VIDEOTAPE and THE GIRLFRIEND EXPERIENCE. 

At many uncountable times, we are questioning Emily's guilt/innocence. Soderbergh and Burns masterfully layers the storytelling with enough events for us to doubt our prejudice with Emily, and about who really is the accountable one. On a side note, the film also hovers around the idea of medical malpractice. 

The resolution was somewhat expected, and while I may have enjoyed the satisfaction of retribution and the buildup of events leading to the finale, I fear that the exposition of the finale and the way things ended was somewhat used already somewhere before. An open-ended ending may have been great as well, but what the hell, we knew we demanded this closure after two hours of witch hunting.  

RATING: 4/5



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