Side Effects (2013)

Side Effects
Director: Steven Soderbergh
Writer: Scott Z. Burns
Cast: Jude Law, Rooney Mara, Channing Tatum, Catherine Zeta-JonesVinessa Shaw, David Costabile, Mamie Gummer

Emily’s (Rooney Mara) husband Martin (Channing Tatum) was in prison for the last four years, for fraud. Now he’s finally out and Emily should be super-happy as her life is slowly falling into place again. But unfortunately she’s not. Instead she’s depressed and really not doing well. After she drives her car into a wall, she starts treatment with Dr. Banks (Jude Law) who prescribes her various medications. But every medication has its side effects.

I really enjoyed the first half of this film. Unfortunately it then gets lost in a clusterfuck of tropes and plot twists and starts to suck really badly.



What I was expecting from the trailer and what we actually got in the first half of the film was the story of a depressed young woman and her difficulty to cope with her psychological issues and the general difficulties with treatment options and the pharmaceutical system. It was a nuanced examination of a complex subject, told from a perspective we don’t get to hear often.

And then the movie completely switched gears and pulled the Psycho Lesbian trope, combined it with the Evil All Along trope, plus an Insanity Defense and I just wanted to scream. They obliterate the examination of medication and side effects and mental illness by having  Emily not be ill, but a psychopathic, gold-digging manipulator. They push the not-so-clear-cut Jonathan Banks into hero territory who takes down the evil bitches who destroy men’s lives. And it all hurts the film more than I can possibly say.


And, apart from the general stupidity of this, it hurts the film so much more because the first half was really good. Rooney Mara is great. Jude Law is awesome. The camera work was fantastic, using various wonky angles to show Emily’s disconnect from the world.

It really was a thing of beauty. I just wish that they had stuck with the first half of the film instead of traipsing off into Hollywood-Lala-Land.


Summarising: For the first half, yes.


  1. While I also vastly prefer the first part and think that the second half completely ruins the nice message about medication thanks to the reveal, I enjoyed the scenes with Jude Law and Rooney Mara after that revelation. That change in dynamics. How he plays her. So while I didn’t really like that twist, those scenes helped to lower my disappointment enough to still be able to call it a decent picture.

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