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Side Effects - Film Review

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by Richard Leathem (subscribe)
Freelance writer. Melbourne based cinephile. Fond of food.
Published March 2nd 2013
Like 2010's Love and Other Drugs, Side Effects highlights the practise of health industry professionals proactively peddling recently introduced drugs onto a public that is all too ready to trust its doctors. But while the former film used this as a backdrop for an otherwise formulaic weepie rom com, director Stephen Soderbergh has bigger ambitions for his film.

Jude Law plays a psychiatrist, who although sharing a practice with two other psychiatrists, works extra shifts at a hospital. This is where he meets recent car crash victim, Emily, played by Rooney Mara. Concerned for her psychological well-being and suspecting that her "accident" was in fact self inflicted, he insists on her seeing him as a patient on a regular basis.

For the first few reels Soderbergh is keen to press the point that we are living in a society where drugs are regularly offered as the solution to problems, from deep-seated psychological issues, circumstantial stress, to just having a quick little something before a job interview. These solutions are seen to be hastily handed out by doctors and encouraged through widespread marketing. Most disturbing is the mind-set that should side effects occur, there are other drugs that can be taken to counteract them.

But just when you think you're watching a social issue movie throwing up moral dilemmas to be discussed over a coffee later, the story keeps throwing curveballs that flip it into more of a thriller. The social issues still remain, but the edge is taken off to give us more of a Hollywood style ride. It keeps us hooked, but by the end credibility is really at full stretch.

Being a Soderbergh film, it's always interesting. It moves along at a fair clip, it looks good, the score is original and evocative, and it's well acted - particularly by Mara, who like Soderbergh, has to perform quite a juggling act with so much happening on various levels.

This is thought provoking and entertaining, not something you can say about a lot of films out at the moment.

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Why? Entertaining and thought provoking
Where: In cinemas everywhere
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