CHANNEL 4 4SEVEN E4 MORE4 FILM4 4MUSIC 4oD

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: Rooney Mara, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Channing Tatum, Jude Law
  • Director: Steven Soderbergh
  • Writer: Scott Z Burns
  • Producer: Scott Z Burns, Lorenzo Di Bonaventura, Gregory Jacobs
  • 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 Woman In Black 2

    The Woman In Black: Angel Of Death

    The spectral 'woman in black' feeds off the loss and trauma of Second World War evacuees in this gothic sequel from director Tom Harper (The Scouting Book For Boys)

  • Film4 Men In Black 3

    Men In Black 3

    Agent J (Will Smith) travels back to the 1960s to stop an alien from assassinating a young Agent K (Josh Brolin) and changing the course of history

  • Channel 4 Blog

    Joe Cunningham's 11 recommendations for LFF 14

    Unfortunately I haven¿t been jet setting around the world this year to the various exciting international film festivals, but that¿s what makes the London Film Festival¿s compilation approach to progr

  • Channel 4 Blog

    Michael Leader's 11 recommendations for LFF 2014

    One of the best things about the London Film Festival¿s smorgasbord approach to programming is that, amongst the world premieres and gala screenings, there¿s an eclectic collection of exciting films o

Rent now on Film4od

Available to rent for £3.49

Register with Film4.com

Personalise your Film4 experience

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

or Register

Tweets @Film4

  • RT @FilmTVPost: Star Trek is on @Film4 at 6.30pm. Excellent reboot by JJ Abrams. Chris Pine, @simonpegg & Zachary Quinto star.

  • @Keltik_ What, that's outrageous!

  • Coming up at 12.50, it's family animation A Monster In Paris http://t.co/s4499N44Mv

  • @Keltik_ Nice

  • @huwsaidthat @Leightwinst @ghuwevans @PARF01 Merry Christmas one and all!

Share