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Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Film - Side Effects - directed by Steven Soderbergh

Star rating - 7/10

This is a psychological thriller with some big moral issues to explore - the nature of mental illness; the proximity of most people to mental instability; insider trading; and the role of advertising, drug companies, and doctors in choosing medicines to prescribe for profit rather than entirely for their patients' benefit. It is as slick and smart as you would expect from director Steven Soderbergh, with some great performances from a star studded cast.

Rooney Mara stars as Emily, the young wife of a former financial high flyer who is just completing a four year prison stretch for insider trading. When her husband Martin, (Channing Tatum), is released she finds it hard to hold things together, and signs of her previous depression quickly come to the fore in a dramatic way. Manhattan psychiatrist, Doctor Jonathan Banks (Jude Law), is very sympathetic to her case, but nevertheless is very quick to prescribe the latest drugs to help her, without any real degree of caution about possible side effects. 

But as things start to unravel, the ripples stretch much wider than just Emily herself - all their lives are affected as their cosy worlds come crashing about their ears. There are some chilling twists that are gloriously unexpected, and the plot is brilliant for three quarters of the way into the film. But, without giving away any vital parts, Soderbergh should really have resisted the temptation to tie up every possible loose end in the drama. The end of the film looses the impact it could have had by leaving a little more up to the audience's imagination, and indeed intelligence. 

However, both the chemistry between Mara and Tatum as the loving couple, and the patient/doctor relationship between Mara and Law is great. And Catherine Zeta Jones makes a fabulous appearance as the former psychiatrist who treated Emily, and who Law turns to for help. And the other criticism of the film I have is really a moral one, in that Jude Law's character should really have suffered a little more for his greed and focus on profit rather than patient care, or at least I would like to think so, but then again maybe in the real world that's just the way it goes. 

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