Showcasing Paranoia Without Being Paranoid
Written by Matt Giles
Edited by Erin Accomando
We've all seen those commercials advertising some new drug that helps with some disease or condition. If you're like me, you often laugh you when hear the list of long side effects the drug can have, oftentimes those effects being worse than the actual disease they're supposed to treat. That's the idea behind Side Effects, the latest paranoia thriller from director Steven Soderbergh, and perhaps this distinguished director's final film.
Rooney Mara continues to prove herself as an actress, this time around playing Emily Taylor, a severely depressed woman coping with the four year imprisonment of her husband, Martin (Channing Tatum). When Martin is released, Emily's depression worsens to the point that she seeks the counsel of a psychiatrist, Dr. Jonathan Banks (Jude Law), after a failed suicide attempt. When he prescribes her with a new antidepressant, sinister things begin to happen, causing Dr. Banks' reputation to come under investigation and Emily's sanity to be pushed to the limit.
After Soderbergh's 2011 film Contagion, it's clear that he is a man well-equipped for creating a sense of paranoia and dread on screen without making the movie feel too paranoid for its own good. He paints a portrait of the time in which we live where there's a prescription drug for virtually everything out there, and chooses to show us the possible ramifications of our choices. There are moral questions posed early in the film about the best ways of treating mental illness, and the nice thing about Side Effects is that you can approach these questions in multiple ways.
The argument could be made that it is a study about America's addiction to prescription drugs and the overall power pharmaceutical companies have in our current culture. For better or worse, physicians are always looking for new ways to treat illness, mental or physical, and Side Effects offers somewhat of an inside look into how certain decisions are made regarding the treatment of a patient. Or, you can look at the film as a study of depression and the long-term mental effect it can have on a person, in this case, Emily. You could even look at it as an examination into the life of a psychiatrist and the types of moral questions he or she faces on a daily basis.
The direction the film goes in may not be what people are expecting but I thoroughly enjoyed myself. If this film is truly Soderbergh's swan song, it's not a bad note to end on. But the thrills, twists and turns that Side Effects offers makes me hope that this is not the last we have seen of this prolific filmmaker.
Side Effects will be released Friday, February 8th 2013