Side Effects (15)

Directed by Steven Soderbergh
On general release from 8th March 2013

Reviewed by Joe Coventry

Head Candy

With more twists than a stick of liquorice and just as dark, this film leaves a nasty taste in the mouth and like most medicines it is a bitter pill to swallow.

Director Soderburgh's imagination sets in motion a series of events increasingly hard to digest - a toxic mix of depression, greed, repression and survival instinct at all costs; sentiments paralleled in the murky downside world of the drugs industry and of risky high finance in an increasingly dystopian corporate America.

Emily (Rooney Mara) is happily married until her husband Martin (Channing Tatum) is sent to prison for insider dealing. His incarceration triggers increasing bouts of depression for Emily and from here on in normality is short-circuited.

After smashing her car into a brick wall she is put under upwardly mobile psychiatric practitioner Dr Jonathan Banks (Jude Law). She keeps on taking the tablets until Martin is released and for Emily the future is uncertain. At a rehabilitation society event a distorted window image of her smooth good looks sends her spiralling into more gloom, memory loss and sleep walking. one night she is over dexterous with a kitchen knife - an act with catastrophic consequences.

Is what has happened the result of the medication that Dr Banks has had her on? He has signed on to a financially lucrative but ethically dubious trial of a new wonder drug that a pharmaceutical company is pushing, the side effects of which are untested and unproven.

Given the seriousness of the dilemma he finds himself in, Dr Banks enquiries into past medication from Emily's previous doctor is causing increasing ripples in more conventional medical circles, as his own well being is put under mounting stress. Emily's case goes to court and the judge awards more psychological analysis under strict supervision of Dr Banks in a secure mental institution. He increasingly smells a rat when Emily receives a prominent visitor without his consent. His paranoia intensifies when his wife is sent through the post some scantily clad photographs implying sexual impropriety. Fighting to save his family life and career he arranges specific tests on his angel faced charge to determine where exactly the problem lies, deciding all their fates, once and for all, in this insanely ratcheted up psychodrama.

Beautifully shot and acted, the claustrophobic mindset makes for a deep and intriguing examination of the human psyche. It shows the lengths that people are capable of going to, to achieve their goals, no matter how perfidious - it's a mad, mad world all right - but go and watch anyway.

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