Viewing your Watchlist and recommended content requires Javascript

  • 15
  • Drama, Film-Noir
  • 2013
  • 105 mins

Side Effects

Film4 Side Effects

Synopsis

After she is prescribed a new form of antidepressant medication by her psychiatrist (Jude Law), a young woman (Rooney Mara) finds her life irreparably damaged by the drug’s side effects.

About

At first glance, Side Effects seems to sit in the same camp as Steven Soderbergh’s recent rush of ensemble-tooled thrillers such as the revenge flick Haywire and the apocalyptic Contagion. Indeed, like the latter, this film springs from a Scott Z Burns script, takes inspiration from contemporary medical issues and features Jude Law touting a miracle cure for the world’s problems - only, this time, it’s not a viral epidemic he’s fighting, but the suicidal depression of a young woman.

Dr Jonathan Banks (Law) approaches Emily Taylor (Rooney Mara) like any other patient, and prescribes her the same cocktail of medication with names full of high-score Scrabble letters - Zoloft, Effexor - that keeps everyone from Emily’s work colleagues to Banks’ own wife on an even keel. But when a cushy consulting contract with a pharmaceutical corporation comes his way, Banks instead moves his patient onto a new drug, Ablixa, which has dangerous side effects not only for Emily, but for her husband (Channing Tatum). Faced with lawsuits and a tarnished reputation, Banks desperately searches for the truth behind this perilous wonder drug.

This could easily have been a brow-beating soapbox rant about premature prescription and medical corruption, but Soderbergh and Burns refuse to conform to expectations, and Side Effects constantly shifts and morphs before our eyes. It’s a testament to the flexibility of the performances (if perhaps not their subtlety, as evidenced by Catherine Zeta-Jones vamping it up as Emily’s suspicious former psychiatrist), that the film baits and switches with such grace, jumping from a psycho-thriller satire to an exhilarating potboiler filled with red herrings, double-crosses and the greyest of moral landscapes. As Banks starts to uncover a complex conspiracy, Law proves to be as adept an amateur gumshoe as he was a corporate shill, but it’s Mara - already turning heads for her performance in The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo - who really impresses here, bearing not only the narrative’s emotional core, but also its central mystery.

Side Effects’ rug-pulling might not be the most enriching or socially engaging cinema experience, but Soderbergh is clearly committed. In fact, the film’s opening sequence should have given the game away. It recalls Psycho with its slow survey of an urban skyline, homing in on a high-rise apartment building and the people inside, moving from macrocosmic themes to the domestic microcosm. The link to Hitchcock is key - for Soderbergh is playing the audience like a piano, and what a joy it is to be played.

Cast & Connections

  • Actor: Jude Law, Channing Tatum, Rooney Mara, Catherine Zeta-Jones
  • Director: Steven Soderbergh
  • Writer: Scott Z Burns
  • Producer: Gregory Jacobs, Lorenzo Di Bonaventura, Scott Z Burns
  • Photographer: Peter Andrews
  • Composer: Andrew Newman

In a nutshell

A masterful double-bluff. What starts as a taut, topical drama about medicated America becomes a classic, twisted neo-noir that sees Soderbergh pushing aside on-the-nose themes in favour of sheer entertainment.

by Michael Leader

Latest from Film4...

  • Film4

    Serena

    Romantic drama set in Depression-era North Carolina starring Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper.

    On Film4: 3 Oct 9:00PM

  • Film4

    Destry

    Audie Murphy stars in this remake of 1939's Destry Rides Again, which is directed by the man who made that previous version, George Marshall.

    On Film4: 28 Sep 4:25PM

  • Film4

    Macbeth on Film4

    Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard star in Justin Kurzel's gripping adaptation of Macbeth, playing for the first time on Film4.

  • Film4

    Lone Survivor on Film4

    Mark Wahlberg stars in exciting military action-drama Lone Survivor, playing for the first time on Film4.

  • Channel 4 Blog

    TIFF 2016: Top Ten

    Film4.com Editor Michael Leader runs through ten standouts from the Toronto International Film Festival...   The Oath I'd already seen three of the four Film4-backed films screening in Toronto (inc

  • Channel 4 Blog

    Baltasar Kormakur on The Oath

    As his Film4-backed Icelandic thriller The Oath premieres in Toronto, director/writer/actor Baltasar Kormakur speaks with Film4.com editor Michael Leader about making films in Hollywood, returning to

Register with Film4.com

Personalise your Film4 experience

  • Set film reminders
  • Build your watchlist
  • Get film suggestions

or Register

Tweets @Film4

  • “You don't know what you're dealing with.” At 10.45pm, Danny Glover & one big ugly mother star in Predator 2. https://t.co/AZtLLw5Yyw

  • Our late-night highlight at 12.55am is Charlie Kaufman's postmodern, existential drama Synecdoche, New York. https://t.co/HVIQhJCEQy

  • In an hour at 10.45pm, the ultimate hunter has a few days to kill in LA in Predator 2. https://t.co/cCpIFJjvJk

  • RT @Film4: On Sunday, we're screening Peter Berg's powerful military drama Lone Survivor, starring Mark Wahlberg. https://t.co/TjrDo0lwpK

  • RT @Film4: Love the look of @A24's poster for Trespass Against Us, which stars Michael Fassbender & Brendan Gleeson and plays at the #LFF n…

Share