Side Effects centers on Emily Taylor (Rooney Mara), a young woman suffering from depression following the imprisonment of her husband, Martin Taylor (Channing Tatum), for insider trading. After a botched suicide attempt, Elizabeth begins seeing Dr. Johnathon Banks (Jude Law), a young, talented psychiatrist. Banks attempts to treat Elizabeth’s depression with therapy and common antidepressants such as Zoloft. When these drugs fail, at Elizabeth’s urging, Banks puts her on a new, experimental drug, Ablixa. While on Ablixa, Elizabeth begins experience strange bouts of sleepwalking, which eventually leads to a tragedy that no one could have foreseen, throwing Banks and Elizabeth’s lives into turmoil.
I would be remiss if I did not also mention Catherine Zeta-Jones exceptional performance. She plays Dr. Siebert, a rather unethical psychiatrist who represents the worst of the field. At first Dr. Siebert seems like a minor character, but her inner darkness is revealed as she reveals how little she cares about her patients. Her gaze is cold, her mannerisms are manipulative, and I felt my hair rise almost every time she was on screen.
The cinematographic techniques used in Side Effects are fascinating. The film features very little music, and when it does feature music, it is played very softly in the background to increase tension and suspense. Much of the dialogue is soft or whispered, with long periods of silence during conversations. The color palate mostly consists cool blues, grays and shadowed yellows. In essence, the film feels muted, and drained, as if something is missing at its core, much like how some people feel when they are suffering from depression. This style adds ambience to the film, but also makes it fell tedious and a little boring at times.
Much like Mud, Side Effects is a difficult movie to classify, but it broadly fits into the thriller category. Side Effects is a special kind of thriller, though, because it lacks the typical action sequences, gun fights, and over-hyped villains common in most films of the genre. Despite occasional dull moments, Side Effects is an excellent movie that will change your perception psychiatry and the mind.