Movie Review: Side Effects

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MV5BMTc2MzY0NDAwOF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMTE1Mzc4OA@@._V1_SY317_CR0,0,214,317_I must admit I wasn’t thrilled with Steven Soderberg’s recent work, “Contagion” and “Haywire.” I preferred “Perfect Sense” as a story dealing with worldwide epidemic. And the sum of the actions in “Haywire” doesn’t make up for the flat story. “Side Effects,” however, is different story. This medical mystery thriller has lingering effects, in a good way.

Emily (Rooney Mara, “The Social Network”) and Martin Taylor (Channing Tatum, “Haywire”) are just beginning to put their married lives back together. Martin has finally been released from four years in prison for insider trading. But Emily cannot seem to shake off the blues and continues to be depressed. She turns to Dr. Jonathan Banks (Jude Law, “Sherlock Holmes”) and receives a prescription for her depression. Dr. Banks, whose wife lost a high-powered Wall Street job, takes on extra workloads, including being a “consultant” for a pharmaceutical firm. He offers his patients to participate in experimental studies in exchange for free meds. 

At first the story appears to focus on Emily and her struggle in managing her depression on a daily basis, including suicidal tendencies. While the new pill she’s popping appears to be working and makes her feel better, it also has adverse side effects, which includes sleepwalking. Her drug-induced sleepwalking proves to be dangerous and results in an unthinkable tragedy. Or is it? Mara is subtly brilliant in her portrayal of Emily. There’s an eerie sense of innocence in her fragile frame and vulnerability. 

As the film progresses, it becomes clear that this is more of a story about Dr. Banks, who has to swallow a bitter pill when Emily is arrested, brought to trial, and sent to a psychiatric ward on court order. He tracks down her previous psychiatrist, Dr. Victoria Siebert, icily played by Catherine Zeta-Jones. He gets in touch with the people that Emily has been in contact with recently in order to understand what really happened. 

When Dr. Banks begins noticing signs and connects the dots, the fun starts. You may think you know what’s going on, but you don’t. It’s twists-and-double crosses galore. But don’t worry, everything will be answered and wrapped neatly in the end. Instead of a whodunit mystery, “Side Effects” is ‘who’s playing who.’ Expect the unexpected and you’ll enjoy this chilling ride. 

Copyright (c) 2013. Nathalia Aryani.

Nathalia Aryani is a business manager, foreign language translator, film columnist and lifestyle/travel writer. She can be reached at  Nathalia owns a movies blog, The MovieMaven ( Twitter:

Nathalia Aryani is a Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic ( She has a movie blog, The MovieMaven ( Twitter: @the_moviemaven. She can be reached at [email protected].

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