Steven Soderbergh is the king of the cinema docudrama. Soderbergh shows the audience a realistic and informative tale whether it’s the relationships deteriorating in Sex, Lies, and Videotape, the war on drugs in Traffic or the infectious disease outbreaks in Contagion. This time around Soderbergh checks in to the world of mental health and treatment with his new thriller Side Effects.
Side Effects stars Rooney Mara (The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo) as Emily, a 28-year-old New Yorker whose husband (played by Channing Tatum) has just been released from prison for insider trading. The last four years of her life seem to have taken its toll on Emily’s psyche and she begins to unravel. After some unfortunate incidents, Emily receives numerous treatment methods and prescriptions from Dr. Jonathan Banks, played by the stellar and new favorite of Soderbergh, Jude Law. No treatment seems to work and side effects begin to occur which drive Emily over the edge in her personal life.
The first hour of Side Effects shows the vicious cycle that occurs in mental illness and the treatment of the disease. Soderbergh takes a voyeuristic look at the mental health field just as he did with the handling of a virus outbreak in Contagion. You see Emily suffer through prescriptions that make her sick and dazed. We see her get bombarded with arm-chair pharmacists who always think they have the magic pill to fix her sadness. Even the doctors who treat her have a hidden agenda that may not be in the patients best interest. Soderbergh gives us a realistic take on the life of a person suffering through depression.
The second half of Side Effects takes a twist that I cannot describe because it would ruin the movie going experience. I have a feeling the Mental Health field will be unhappy with the portrayal on-screen by Soderbergh. I personally loved the twist, but it will upset some mental health professionals. The acting in Side Effects is top-notch in the second half, especially Jude Law. Mara shows once again she can play a damaged character, but it’s Law’s movie in the second half of Side Effects. Jude Law’s Dr. Banks takes the audience on a journey to find who is considered insane, what can make you insane and if a person is fully aware of their actions, can they still be insane..?
Side Effects will surely aggravate some viewers who don’t like the image shown of mental health treatment in America. If you take your feelings toward mental health out of it, Side Effects is a very entertaining thriller. The acting is superb as well as the two separate plots that take place in Side Effects. My only advice would be if you are going to see this film for Channing Tatum, you may be disappointed with his amount of time on-screen. His character drives the story in the second half, but his screen time is limited. Overall I give Side Effects three potatoes out of four potatoes.