Side Effects


“Side Effects”, the latest (and possibly last) film from famed director Steven Soderbergh is a story of pharmaceutical conspiracy, intrigue and murder. When a woman suffering from depression visits a new doctor, he puts her on an anti-depression medications. When the medications cause her to start sleep walking, though, there are unforeseen consequences.


Emily Taylor (Rooney Mara) is a young woman with psychological issues. Her husband Martin (Channing Tatum) has just been released from prison for insider trading, yet she still finds herself depressed. Suicidal even. After an unsuccessful suicide attempt, she’s briefly hospitalized. The psychologist on staff that night, Dr. Jonathan Banks (Jude Law), allows her to check herself out, provided she agrees to treatment at his private practice twice a week.

Treatment leads to prescriptions. Pills. anti-depressants, specifically. And while she initially struggles with the medication, they eventually settle on Ablixa, a drug which keeps her depression under control. It has a disturbing side effect though… it causes her to sleepwalk. While Dr. Banks searches for a medication to pair with the Ablixa, in order to control her sleepwalking, Emily does something terrible. During a sleepwalking bout, she stabs someone.

What ensues is a legal, psychological and conspiracy thriller. Emily must stand trial for what she did, and her best defense is insanity due to the effects of the drugs. Dr Banks is on trial in the court of public opinion for mistreating her. His practice, his standing, his lucrative clinical trial deals with pharmaceutical companies, even his home life are all endangered by the incident. And of course, there’s the impact on the company that manufactures Ablixa, whose stock price plummets as the result of the negative publicity.

It winds up being a complex film, with a number of twists and turns. The cast (which includes Catherine Zeta-Jones as Emily’s prior therapist) is very good, especially Law, who conveys the indignant rage of an innocent man wronged extremely well. Mara is a bit too absent for my taste, even though I realize she’s supposed to be playing a woman who is basically walking through life alternately depressed, and then tranquilized.

Steven Soderbergh keeps things intriguing with his direction, as always. I love how he uses his scores in his films, it’s always an interesting choice. Here, he barely plays music at all, the film is very, very lightly scored. Almost imperceptible. He gets the most out of his stars and adds great shots here and there to keep you visually intrigued. It’s a shame he’s retiring… I hope a few years off gets him missing things and wanting to get back into the game, because his films are always interesting.

Here, “Side Effects” felt just a tad long to me (and at only 106 minutes, it shouldn’t), even though it was obviously a well done film, with a talented cast. It’s an excellent story, I think it will certainly hold people’s interest. It might just take a little too long to get where its going at the end, but I don’t think that that’s going to derail people’s enjoyment of it. It’s still a thought-provoking, interesting thriller that’s sure to entertain.


Daniel Fogarty


47 thoughts on “Side Effects

  1. Such a crazy and twisted movie, but that’s what made it so much fun. You never know where it’s going to go and you don’t want to. You just want to watch, be on-edge, and have a good time. What’s so wrong with that?!??! Good review bud.

  2. I think B is fair, I gave it a 3/5 as I too felt it’s a bit long (I looked at my watch a few times) and it’s just a very cold movie overall. It may be well-crafted but to me the emotional resonance is lacking, so it kind of hamper my enjoyment. All the plot twists also didn’t really do much for me.

  3. Nice review. Soderbergh is usually a hit or miss director for me but I think I may check this one out. I was planning to see the newest Die Hard movie but seeing the abysmal reviews I might watch Side Effects instead.

  4. Interested in seeing this one. But feel it might be a rental for me. Soderbergh’s last couple of films haven’t done much for me (Contagion and Haywire) so not sure I can be lured into another so soon.

  5. Good review! I’ll be honest I didn’t find it as twisty as many. I mean if you look at it from afar its a pretty simple “twist”. It’s more out of the blue than layered and complex. I don’t want to spoil anything so I’ll shut up. But I found it to be “ok”.

    • I understand, I suppose. Its not a movie that offers multiple twists, but the one it does offer is pretty good. I didnt anticipate it, I’ll say that.

      And certainly, this isn’t a top ten candidate (at least I hope not, what a crappy year that would be! LOL)

  6. Great review as always! You have me intrigued. Sounds like a pretty interesting thriller especially when they have twists. I’ve liked a lot of Soderbergh’s movies so I’m definitely going to see this..eventually. 🙂

    • Yeah. I mean, I wouldnt recommend rushing out to the theatre or anything Kim, But its definitely decent, definitely worth checking out. And if you like Soderbergh, then, aboslutely. A rebtal is probably the best course of action. Its definitely a decent rental. 😉

  7. I went in with not much expectations and Iittle knowledge of the plot. The twist and turns of the plot was great because it was so unexpected. Great review.

    • Thanks Issy. Yeah, I thought the plot twists were pretty cool, because I usually catch those kinds of things, but I definitely didnt this time. I mean, its not a Sixth Sense level thing or anything, but still pretty decent. Glad to hear you enjoyed it as well!

  8. Yeah, I really liked this one as well. The twists were actually unpredictable, and the cast was pretty exceptional all around.

    While it didn’t feel too long to me, I will say that there was at least one scene that probably should have been omitted, that being the flashback near the end that feels out of place and only exists to hold the audience’s hand for anyone too stupid to fit all the pieces together themselves. But other than that, I enjoyed this one quite a bit.

    • I know the scene you’re talking about. It kind of bothered me too a little… Definitely felt like they were shepherding schoolchildren, you know? Keep up everyone, keep up!

      But it was pretty decent all in all. Glad you agree.

  9. Hi, Fogs and company:

    Sounds to me like ‘Side Effects’ is a much bigger budgeted, more expensive and possibly less talented cast, up scale re-make of Nicholas Ray’s ‘Bigger Than Life’. And the dangers of self medicating with less than thoroughly tested pharmacology.

    Nothing really new here. Since there are many pills on the market today, whose disclaimers note everything from somnambulism to loose bowels, paranoia and suicidal thoughts.

    • Couldnt tell you, Jack, if it shares any similarities to ‘Bigger Than Life’, I havnt seen that one. There is a pretty heavy dosage of dangers of meds though.

      There’s more to it than that though, its not purely about the problems with pills. There is quite a conspiracy/mystery thriller that unfolds, too. Its kind of an interesting mix. Check it out if it crosses your path, Jack 😉

  10. Good review Fogs. Not as positive as other reviews I have read, but still continues to peak my interest. Just a lot is needed these last couple of months to get me to go to the theaters.

    • Yeah, it’s not a movie that would get me raving about it or anything, but it was decent for the dollar. I think its standing out amongst the competition a little right now, you know? Maybe that’s giving it its glow.

      It was still pretty good though, dont get me wrong!

  11. Pingback: Side Effects Review: Soderbergh’s Supposed Swan Song | Rorschach Reviews

  12. Shame about Soderbergh retiring, I hope he comes back one day – his movies are so beautifully stylish. I think I’ll wait for DVD to see this one, Mara is awesome and Law can do wonders with good material.

    • I was happy for Law, definitely. This is definitely a good role for him. He did well with it.

      Be interested to eventually get your take on Mara. She… I mean, she’s supposed to be vacant, thats the part. I think she just was a little too good at it.

      Anyways, yes. Soderbergh’s style shows through here as well, without a doubt. A DVD viewing is a decent idea for checking this out. 😉

  13. This was the first 2013-released film that I saw, since everything up until this point has been Oscar-catchup. I usually dread the early releases since they’re typically such a let down from what I’ve been seeing the past four months, but Soderbergh was a good choice for me and I enjoyed it a fair bit. I liked most of the twists, but unlike some of the Ocean’s films where I’d do a rewatch on DVD to try to figure out all the details of them, I felt like this one laid them out a little too plainly (and as a result, a little less excitingly). And in a way, it seems like the first half of the film set us up like we were going to get a drama, and then suddenly it switched to a thriller. Still, it wasn’t a bad way to start my “new year”!

    • Agreed. I think that this one is the only really decent flick of the first couple of months. 😦

      Oscar catch up can be rough. I’m glad that this year I got a chance to see them all except Amour… its out there now, but screw it, I’m not driving an hour just to check that one out.

    • Well, Jude Law was excellent, and I thought Zeta-Jones was too. I’m having a hard time of what to think of Mara. Her character was supposed to be drugged out. Absent. Vacant. So I cant tell if she did a really good job of what she was supposed to do or not. LOL She was just… zoned out the whole time!

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