Movie Review: “Side Effects”- A Dance Between Dream and Nightmare

Written by Ethan Butler February 14, 2013


This was a film that, honestly, I wasn’t looking forward to seeing all that much. I recognize that it may possibly be Steven Soderbergh’s last cinematic release as a director, and that he is considered a fine filmmaker, it’s just that his last few films (“Contagion”, and “Haywire”) were somewhat lacking to me. So going into Side Effects I was hoping to be surprised, and in the end, I love the film so much I may have to marry it. Yet once again, it still seemed lacking. What follows is the bare bones plot summary: a young woman’s (played amicably by Oscar Nominee Rooney Mara) world unravels around her when a drug prescribed to her by her psychiatrist has unexpected side effects (hence the films title). Now that that’s out of the way let’s get down to the nitty gritty of “Side Effects”.

Shooting Depression

Soderbergh and Co crafted a film that does, by appearances alone, take you into a depressing place. The film constantly shifts between a delicate dream and a distressing nightmare. The world of “Side Effects” is the one we live in, but with some subtle tweaks that keep the viewer distant enough to appreciate cinematic work at play. The actors at the beginning of most scenes are shown out of focus, and as the speak they lean forward into a clear image. I will give the film this, it is hauntingly shot. Soderbergh and Co. took great care to ensure that the viewer could understand through the camerawork, lighting, and sound (or lack of sound) the mood or tone of the scene. Yet here is also where the film falters some, and this may just be my opinion but them’s the beans- it is not a very entertaining film.


Soderbergh You Devil

Ok, here we go! Where the film ultimately loses you is in the entertainment department. Now, I respect the film because it’s an intriguing piece of cinema, yet even with the reveal of the film’s true nature at the end (which is truly interesting) I couldn’t help not looking at my watch at times, counting the minutes until it was over. Even with all that happens, the events play out in a somewhat dull fashion leaving little to make this a film to rush out of the theatre and call (CALL!) ten friends saying “YOU HAVE TO SEE “SIDE EFFECTS”. It is hard to truly connect with the characters because just when you begin to feel for them something happens or they do something that completely shatters any sympathy you had.



The performances by the main cast in the film are respectable because they are all such swell actors. Rooney Mara delivers well in her performance as the “troubled” lady at the centre of the story, and Jude Law (as consistent as ever) is actually quite fun to watch as events in the film transpire, both do what they can to give their characters a sense of being. Yes, the “Sexiest Man Alive” Channing Tatum is also in fine form in his small role, and Catherine Zeta-Jones is not too shabby indeed either.

My Diagnosis (Tee hee hee)

In the end, the film, to me, is not one that I’ll be seeking once its prescription is ready (I may be reaching a bit with that one) and can be bought at your local video retail centre. It is more art than cinema, as it is just lacking in something (possibly entertainment value) that’s hard to put your finger on, but if you are a big Soderbergher (a term I, Ethan Butler, coin here now to call fans of Steven Soderbergh) then check out what may well be his cinematic swan song.

My Review: 6/10




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