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Film Review: Side Effects
by Mary Nyiri

Side Effects
Directed by: Steven Soderbergh
USA 2013

Great house, fancy cars, beautiful clothes and lots of champagne set the scene for a police raid to arrest Martin (Channing Tatum). He is convicted of insider trading and sent to prison. His wife Emily (Rooney Mara), who only knew the good life Martin provided, is so steeped in depression that even Martin’s imminent release does not seem to improve her mental state. She goes to psychiatrist Jonathan Banks (Jude Law) for help and explains that all the usual drugs like Zoloft or Paxil have not enabled her to relax or sleep.

Dr. Banks partners in a lucrative practice but needs to make much more money because his wife lost her executive job, endangering their lavish lifestyle. He decides to enroll Emily in a drug trial to earn a big cash bonus. Emily is anxious to try anything and while taking the new drug, ignores the apparent side effect of sleepwalking. For instance, she prepares breakfast in the middle of the night but in the morning has no idea of her actions. While preparing a nice meal, her husband comes home, enters the kitchen and she greets him with a knife, stabbing him several times. Apparently, while asleep. She later wakes up and finds Martin dead.

Now Dr. Banks loses everything – his reputation, his practice, his wife. To clear his name and get his life back, he searches for answers. Did he cause Martin’s death by not fully understanding the side effects of the new drug? His investigation leads to a stunning revelation and he must concoct his own insider deal to clear his name. There are lots of twists in the concluding scenes but no need for Zoloft to quell anxious audience members. The neat fairytale ending makes for a nice bedtime story.

Press Conference: About ten years ago, Scott Burns began his research for a new project at Bellevue, a mental hospital that is now closed, in New York. He was thrilled to work with the cast and crew. Steven Soderbergh liked the transference of guilt from one character to another, something that Alfred Hitchcock did very well. He liked the idea of making a thriller in the twilight of his career or before his break, or whatever. The actors felt it was very easy to make the film thanks to Burns and Soderbergh.

Trivia: Steven Soderbergh did not confirm this is the last film he will direct.