Side Effects review

In what is said to be his last cinematic release before swanning off into the sunset of retirement, Soderbergh has served up a tense psychological thriller looking at the fallout from a patients adverse reaction to some anti-depressants. This may disappoint anyone who thought this was a film about the 3D animation and visual effects tool created by Side Effects Software.

Emily Taylor (Mara) is the depressed wife of Martin (Tatum) who is struggling to deal with a return to married life after her husband comes home from his four year prison sentence for insider trading. In her desperation she is treated by Dr. Jonathan Banks (Law) who after speaking with her former therapist, Dr Victoria Siebert (Zeta-Jones), ends up prescribing a drug named Aflixia. Eventually Emily begins behaving erratically and sleep-walking and after one particular episode (which I won’t spoil here), the situation becomes increasingly desperate for Dr Banks who begins to be seen as being negligent in his treatment of her. In an effort to clear his name, or at the very least figure out what happened, he embarks on a bit of amateur sleuthing and finds that things may not be exactly as the first appeared.

For the first two thirds of this film I was thoroughly engrossed in the story, which is ably played out by the two leads, Law and Mara, but the final third left me feeling completely unfulfilled and perhaps even a little cheated. Questions are posed about the nature of depression and how it is treated by medical professionals, who perhaps too often hide behind the simple prescription of drugs and these are really interesting points, but as the film builds up to its climax it becomes something else entirely different and is far less effective for it. There is still plenty to enjoy though, as we follow Dr. Banks from one plot twist to the other the audience are kept engaged by the solid script and Soderbergh’s always excellent direction. I have to say that the soundtrack is perhaps one of the more annoying ones I have encountered in recent times with a reliance on (I think) handbells, which are so distracting that I missed some dialogue at times.

Mara is excellent as the troubled Emily and is given good support by Law and Zeta-Jones, even if her American accent is still a little bit Welsh. It is just such a shame that all their good work, while certainly not wasted, can’t help paper over the fact that despite being a very solid film, I left feeling disappointed because the story ties things up in a way that strikes me as being a bit of a copout.

• Side Effects at IMDb

Mark Brennan

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