SIDE EFFECTS (M) is a provocative thriller about Emily and Martin (Rooney Mara and Channing Tatum), a successful New York couple whose world totally unravels when a new drug prescribed by Emily’s psychiatrist – intended to treat anxiety – has unexpected side effects.
Emily and Martin Taylor’s world has already unravelled to a high anxiety plateau, because the young, beautiful, wealthy couple living the good life, with a mansion, a sailboat and every luxury money can buy is shown to be a sham, and Martin is sent to prison for insider trading. For four years, Emily waits for him in a tiny apartment in upper Manhattan, but his release is just as devastating as his incarceration and Emily sinks into a deep depression.
After a failed suicide attempt, psychiatrist Jonathan Banks, played by the uber urbane Jude Law, is called in to consult on Emily‘s case. Desperate not to be hospitalized, Emily agrees to a regimen of therapy and antidepressants, a decision that will change the lives of everyone involved.
When Emily‘s symptoms don‘t improve, Banks prescribes a new medication that quiets her demons. But the side effects of the drug have chilling consequences: marriages are ruined, Banks ‘practice is decimated and someone is dead—but who is responsible? Devastated by this professional setback, Banks becomes obsessed with finding an answer. This obsession closes professional ranks, mars his personal relationships,
Scott Z. Burns’ screenplay, the third of his scripts to be helmed by Steven Soderbergh, after CONTAGION and THE INFORMER, is part medical ethics epic, part film noir, complete with two femme fatales.
What appears to be a forensic fait-accompli about malpractice and felonious pharmaceutical prescription spins out to a far more complex thriller of deceit, manipulation and murder. There’s a double indemnity at work here and SIDE EFFECTS could quite easily been called THE PSYCHIATRIST ALWAYS RINGS TWICE.
And speaking of twice, this is the second time Soderbergh has cast Jude Law, Catherine Zeta Jones and Channing Tatum.
Capped by a suitable score by Thomas Newman, with riffs spookily and somewhat discordantly similar to his Oscar nominated SKYFALL, SIDE EFFECTS is a masterly adult thriller with hints of Hitchcock.
© Richard Cotter