‘Side Effects’ Review: Soderbergh’s Last Film(?) Is Best of 2013 (So Far)
Director Steven Soderbergh has made a career out of telling unique stories with flair and precision on the big screen. From his indie debut Sex, Lies & Videotape to Side Effects, what reportedly may be his final big screen film, he’s never lost his edge and continued to develop and push himself within the medium. Side Effects, a title which hints at the side effects of drugs which play a huge role in the film, is a solid, calculating film that brings more to the table than you would expect.
Rooney Mara (The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo) and Jude Law star as patient and psychiatrist in the film. Mara’s Emily awaits the return of her husband (Channing Tatum) from prison after four years served for financial fraud (insider trading). Emily though, can’t handle the stress of her life and tries to kill herself by crashing her car. After survival, this leads her to the psychiatric care of Law’s Dr. Banks who begins to prescribe drugs for her to make her healthier and happier.
What unfolds is a series of situations that result in upping the ante of drugs for Emily and after a tragic event, Dr. Banks and Emily become tied to one another as events unravel. Soderbergh shoots the film with a tight focus on the subjects, which blurs the background, known as a shallow depth of field. The purpose is to have the audience semi-participate in the feeling of being drugged. Of course, beyond what is a clinical study, a thriller unspools on screen, a side effect, which means that there is more than than meets the eye.
Side Effects is not an outstanding film, but it is the best so far of 2013. It tells a story that you think you know and surprises the audience at the same time. It would be a shame if Soderbergh really does not direct for the silver screen any more. The auteur of Out Of Sight, Erin Brockovich, Traffic, Ocean’s 11 and more, has shown consistently that he is one of the better directors going for nearly two decades. Perhaps he moves on to another venture, but a man so skilled would be greatly missed in a medium often becoming more cookie cutter. That would be an undesirable side effect to his departure from directing. Let’s hope he keeps going.