Side Effects starts off as an original and daring film, but takes a turn for the Lifetime channel ¾ of the way in and ends up being not nearly as good as it could have been.
Martin (Channing Tatum) has just been released from prison after being locked away for four years because of insider trading. His wife Emily (Rooney Mara) has been on and off meds for a few years, battling anxiety and depression. When we meet Emily she is having trouble coping with her hubby’s return home to their Manhattan apartment.
After an incident, Emily begins to see psychiatrist Dr. Jonathan Banks (Jude Law), who prescribes her a new drug sure to help all her symptoms. The anti-depressant Ablixa promises in their ad campaigns that users can “take back tomorrow.” Emily starts to have unexpected side effects, which affect her wellbeing and relationship with Martin.
The rest of Side Effects will not be given away, as each viewer should go into the film knowing as little as possible. I will say that the film’s most crucial scene is one of the more shocking this year.
Side Effects is anchored by fantastic performances, especially those of Mara and Law. Mara is a great candidate as the vulnerable patient, with her fresh fair face, petite form and blank eyes. She brought some Lisbeth Salander into this role and it worked.
Law is perfect as the doctor who is taking on too much at work and struggling to care for his family at home. The beauty of his character is that he could be viewed as victim or a bad guy, maybe a little of both. Scott Z. Burn’s screenplay and Law’s portrayal allow the audience to decide on this polarizing character.
Let’s hope that Side Effects isn’t the end of Soderbergh’s career, who’s certainly one of Tinseltown’s most versatile directors. Please, Mr. Soderbergh, don’t go away!