In a society so dependent on prescription drugs, side effects are a valid concern, as some can be almost equally as miserable as the original diagnosis. Scott Z. Burns aims to capture this issue in his Side Effects, starring Channing Tatum, Jude Law, Catherine Zeta-Jones and the more recently debuted Rooney Mara.
In Side Effects, stock market wife, Emily Taylor (Mara) struggles to regain her life after her husband’s release from prison following a four year stint for insider trading. As Taylor and her husband (Tatum) attempt to return to a normal life, she continues to struggle with a clinical depression so severe that she finds herself hospitalized following a blatant suicide attempt. With her new doctor, Jonathan Banks (Law) at her side, Taylor returns to a life coated with depression medications in an effort to once more enjoy her husband and their time together.
Soon after beginning a new medication, Taylor starts to exhibit rather extreme side effects, immediately putting her doctor and husband on guard and sending her into a chemically-induced whirlwind of frightening events that will inevitably turn her life upside down.
As the story progresses, it becomes relatively clear that things are not as they may seem with Emily’s most intense side effects. When his patient’s plight overtakes his personal life, Banks dedicates himself to discovering the truth behind what has happened.
A psychological thriller in every sense of the word, Side Effects finds no struggle in captivating its audience. It seems impossible not to partake in Banks’ mysterious investigation. However, despite its appeal, certain details—or lack thereof—in the plot prove somewhat difficult to follow from the outside. As Banks begins to piece together minor clues surrounding his patient’s situation, it becomes a sort of guessing game as to how the puzzle is coming together for him, as the audience is not entirely privy to his thought process.
True to form for modern thrillers, Burns doesn’t let this story go by without a twist, but unfortunately it seems recycled. Whether it is the cliché nature of the twist itself or a lack of wholly original creativity, the conclusion of this story leaves a little to be desired.
In spite of compositional flaws, Side Effects is a rather enjoyable film. As per expectations, Mara delivers an amazing performance, and her fellow actors are excellent supporters. Tatum is great as Taylor’s loving, but human, husband. Though Zeta-Jones did play her role as Taylor’s previous doctor to satisfaction, the overall depth of her character disappointingly fell flat.
The suspense and mystery written into this tale, in addition to Steven Soderbergh’s expert direction, provide an entertaining experience for any moviegoer’s first viewing and serve to balance out the surface of any writing imperfections. Side Effects definitely takes an interesting look into the delicate balance between the thought processes and morals of psychiatrists and court officials in relation to mentally ill patients.