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Movie Review: Side Effects

By Erica Sylvester
On February 19, 2013

In his latest film Side Effects, Steven Soderbergh does a fantastic job of leading the audience into one way of thinking, then pulling the rug out from under them before introducing plot twist after plot twist. By the end of the 106-minute runtime, viewers will feel deceived, manipulated and in complete awe of Soderbergh's excellent misdirection.

Rooney Mara (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) stars as Emily Taylor, a woman with a history of depression who feels a massive amount of anxiety when finding out her husband Martin (Channing Tatum) is going to be released from prison after a four-year sentence. After a suicide attempt, Taylor begins to see therapist Jonathan Banks (Jude Law), who prescribes her a variety of antidepressants, none of which seem to have any positive effect on her. 

Banks talks to Taylor's previous psychiatrist Victoria Siebert (Catherine Zeta-Jones), who suggests the experimental drug Ablixa. The drug is still in the trial stage, but Taylor's worsening depression leaves Banks with few options. At first, Ablixa seems to work, but problems arise once Taylor begins to sleepwalk - a side effect of the drug that proves to be deadly.

From then on, the focus shifts to Banks. After prescribing the drug, his world begins to unravel. His relationship dissolves and he begins to grow paranoid. The focus shifts from Taylor to him as he hits rock bottom, with no apparent end in sight.

 It's nearly impossible to describe the second half of this film without giving away any spoilers. If you had any interest in seeing this film before, it's definitely worth it. Soderbergh and the cast do a wonderful job of making the many plot twists realistic and believable, even under the weirdest circumstances.

Despite being in the heads of both Taylor and Banks in different parts of the film, the viewer doesn't know what to expect or which perspective to trust. Around every corner is deceit. More than a few times it feels like the audience is a bunch of blind sheep being led to slaughter as people search to find trust in the characters, which will surely fool them again in the next scene.

The role of big pharmaceutical companies keeping their hands in the right pockets comes into play, an arc which fuels a lot of the misdirection skillfully without coming off as a preachy reflective of anti-depressants in the world today.

It's a mind-bending roller coaster ride of a movie, a genuine thrill ride of entertainment that will leave you guessing time and again, and feeling duped after each and every plot twist. People are double- and triple-crossed so often it's hard to keep the truth seperate from all the lies, making the audience yearn for redemption against the characters who have, and surely will, deceive them again. To even suggest whether the ending is satisfying or not would be giving too much away, but overall Side Effects is a superb movie worth watching  as soon as possible.

4.5/5 stars


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