Side Effects Movie Review

February is usually the month studios release all their hopeless films that they have zero faith in. I can personally attest to having no interest in the films that come out week to week January through February. Usually, I just recommend people to try to catch the Oscar nominated films that came out in December but are finally expanding their releases.  However, every now and again, a surprise great film comes out early.  Last year saw the release of the very exciting THE GREY.  This year has gone a step further and released an incredible, high-quality thriller in SIDE EFFECTS.

Rooney Mara, Channing Tatum in Side Effects

SIDE EFFECTS follows Emily, played flawlessly by Rooney Mara (THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATOO, THE SOCIAL NETWORK) who is suffering from a severe case of depression.  Emily’s husband Martin, played by the increasingly impressive Channing Tatum (21 JUMP STREET, MAGIC MIKE) has just been released from prison for illegal stock trading.  As the loving couple support each other through their trying time, Emily begins to see a psychiatrist, Dr. Jonathan Banks played by the consistently compelling Jude Law (ANNA KARENINA, SHERLOCK HOLMES), to help with her condition.  Using prescription drugs in order to treat Emily’s anxiety, Dr. Banks eventually prescribes a new drug that has some unexpected ‘Side Effects’ resulting in shocking repercussions.

Jude Law in Side Effects

 To fully explain the plot would be an injustice to the intricacies of the finely tuned story.  It is important to keep this well-executed script somewhat secretive. What makes SIDE EFFECTS so fun and affective is the unfolding of every scene as this is anything but typical. Focussed deeply on four characters, Emily, Martin, Dr. Banks and Emily’s former psychiatrist, Dr. Victoria Siebert played wonderfully by Catherine Zeta-Jones (ROCK OF AGES, CHICAGO), director Steven Soderbergh clearly trusts his actors.  And rightfully so, as each one gives a phenomenal performance. Particularly, Mara and Law who shoulder most of the load, creating flawed characters that are likable,believable and continue to keep the audience guessing.  But I believe most of that credit belongs to the brilliant directing.

Jude Law, Catherine Zeta-Jones in Side Effects

Director Steven Soderbergh has masterly woven a suspenseful tale that is never quite as it seems. As a long time fan of Soderbergh, I can safely say this is his best work in years.  And that’s not taking anything away from such recent endeavors as HAYWIRE and CONTAGION, which were wonderful pictures.  However, Soderbergh has tapped into a harmony in his direction that matches every tone and character within the story that I haven’t seen since TRAFFIC.  The whole feel of SIDE EFFECTS is as if we the audience are taking the very prescription drugs the film describes.  Using muted hues and subtle yet deliberate camera angles, the entire vibe is a little surreal and sometimes even depressing, which makes for an accurate depiction of uneasiness.

Rooney Mara, Channing Tatum in Side Effects

It’s a shame the film is being released now at the beginning of the year instead of toward the end as an Oscar hopeful.  My fear is that it will be a forgotten gem with low box office numbers, so I can’t stress enough how highly I recommend it.  SIDE EFFECTS isn’t a perfect film, but it is so well-crafted that any questionable flaws are cleverly hidden and quickly forgiven.  Due to near perfect direction, the story is so involving that SIDE EFFECTS will leave you at the edge of their seat at every unexpected turn.


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