side effects

Art & Culture

Rumour has it that this will be Steven Soderbergh’s last film, though I find that hard to believe In any case, though not the most original plot in the world, this is a slick, cool and enjoyable as any of his thrillers. It also throws an interesting perspective on the use of drugs in psychiatry.

Emily Taylor (Rooney Mara) has a handsome loving husband – in jail for insider trading. But she waits for him to get out and embraces him warmly when he comes home. Nevertheless, she is sad and blue, and drives her car into the wall of an underground garage, resulting in her being taken to hospital and being visited by a psychiatrist. Dr Banks (Jude Law) becomes intrigued by her case, and especially keen on finding her the right cocktail of drugs to help her with depression. He even consults a previous doctor of hers, D Siebert (Catherine Zeta-Jones) who mentions a new drug called Ablixa, which seems to be working wonders – although there are side effects – of course.

This is one of those films where you have to be very careful what you say about it, because any hint of giving away the surprises would be unfair. If I just stick to saying, ‘nothing is what it seems’, then even that may be too much, but hopefully not. I might even say the film has a Hitchcock-like quality, though that is something of a cliche these days, but I mean it as a compliment. The film has a cool, understated nature, with a terrific soundtrack, and a lack of garishness which is welcome. Much of this is due to director Soderbergh, who says that at the age of 50, he’s going to pack it in and do something sensible with his life.

THis is a man who has made at least 25 feature films in the last 25 years since he announced his arrival on the scene at Cannes with sex, lies and videotape. He then made a series of films no one saw, and appeared to be a one hit wonder, until he made a strong comeback with Traffic, Erin Brockovich and Ocean’s 11, before going back to some of his quirkier ideas. In the last 2 years, he has made 4 films – Haywire, Contagion, Magic Mikeand this – as if in a last burst of energy before he signs off. Although he does has a TV movie due this year about Liberace, with Michael Douglas and Matt Damon, which may (or may not be) his swan song. If Side Effects is the last cinema film he makes, it will be a testament to his professionalism, his skill as a cameraman (Peter Andrews, who is credited, is an alter ego), and his excellent casting choices. Rooney Mara is terrific as the vulnerable Emily, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen Jude Law better than as the man whose life is unravelling in front of his eyes.

It won’t stay long at cinemas, but do go and see it if you get a chance. It’s not a classic, but it’s a lot of fun.

Phil Raby