Sitting down to watch Side Effects, I wasn’t entirely sure what I was getting into. Based off of the premise I had a vague idea of what to expect, and in some ways, my expectations were fulfilled. However, there is more to the film than what it initially gives off, and after the ball begins rolling, I was kept on the edge of my seat constantly attempting to pinpoint where the movie was taking me, and how we would get there. The path taken was a tight one, albeit bumpy.
Emily Taylor (Rooney Mara) is an apparently devoted wife to Martin Taylor (Channing Tatum), who is returning home after years in prison. Martin hits the ground running in an attempt to maintain his marriage and pick up where he left off, but Emily has found herself returning to a deep depression in his absence – one that forces her to turn to Jonathon Banks (Jude Law), a well-meaning man with a family he cares for who attempts to aid Emily with various medications. When all else fails, Emily tries Ablixa, a pill suggested by former psychiatrist Victoria Siebert (Catherine Zeta-Jones) – one with side effects that will send Emily even deeper down the rabbit hole, dragging everyone along with her for the ride.
Director Steven Soderbergh meticulously crafted the film, with strong cinematography that adds to the movie’s atmosphere and tone. Low angle shots are utilized to create a feeling of anxiousness and anxiety. The score also helps, with a minimalist soundtrack that creates a surreal feeling throughout the film.
Rooney Mara gives a great performance as the fragile and despairing Emily, and compliments the deeper layers that the film adds to her character. Tatum and Zeta-Jones also give competent performances, but Jude Law stands above both. His portrayal of Jonathon Banks is a strong one – making us sympathetic, even when his character is thrown into doubt and criticism.
As aforementioned, the movie begins slowly enough, without dragging, but it’s not long before the first turn jerks you out of your ease and starts you on an engaging second half full of equally interesting twists and turns that are guaranteed to arouse your interests. While many of these are clever, and I was very much entertained by the film’s climax, there will still be a feeling of incredulity at some of the transpired events. Your suspension of disbelief is somewhat tested, but not enough to break it. It’s funny, because as the movie grows more and more exciting and intricate, the more flawed you may feel it becomes. But by that point, you’ll be numbed by the intrigue. Like a side effect.