It’s no secret that pharmaceuticals companies, worldwide, are raking it in. Big time. But it might not be common knowledge that there are practising psychiatrists working with these companies; testing new drugs on their patients. Even if the patients are aware that their therapist has a vested interest in encouraging them to test the drugs (and still choose to go ahead) it is wholly immoral.
This is the basis for Side Effects, Steven Soderbergh’s latest, and last, film (he will, apparently, be retiring from film now – aged 50 – to focus on painting).
Jude Law plays Dr Jonathon Banks, an English psychiatrist who has travelled to America to practise because, he says; in England people seek therapy because they’re ill, while in America they have therapy because they want to get better. Psychotherapy is less taboo in the States, and so there is more demand – and more opportunities for work.
He meets Emily Taylor (Rooney Mara) – a young, attractive American woman whose husband has just been released from jail – and she becomes his patient. Emily is suffering with depression and Dr Banks prescribes her antidepressants, to take alongside her talking therapy.
We are aware, throughout, that something is going to go very wrong. The opening scene is a blood-smeared apartment, with bloody footprints leading to someone who has been badly injured, and is possibly dead. After a glimpse of this devastation, the film transports us back three months: to when Emily’s husband is released from jail.
We follow Emily, and her developing patient/therapist relationship with Dr Banks – with introductions to other characters such as Dr Victoria Siebert (Catherine Zeta-Jones), Emily’s old psychiatrist, along the way. So far, it’s a familiar tale: depressed woman seeks help, gets close to her therapist and… But everything is not what it seems. The film introduces some shocking twists and turns and leads us off in an entirely new direction.
There will be no SPOILER ALERT because if you want to know what happens in the end – you should go and see it.
The Guardian’s ***** rating was generous. I’d go with…