Sunday, 5 May 2013

Film Review: Side Effects

About the film
Side Effects is a psychological thriller film that was released at the cinema in the UK on 8th March. The film is rated 15 and has a run time of 106 minutes.

After looking forward to the day for years, Emily Taylor’s husband is finally released from prison. However, soon after he returns home, she becomes extremely depressed and suffers with emotional episodes. After a suicide attempt by driving her car into a brick wall, Jonathan Banks becomes her psychiatrist. After trying her on numerous medications, he prescribes and experimental new drug called Ablixa, of which he is part of a study for. Ablixa puts Emily into a sleepwalking state though and while this is happening, she stabs her husband numerous times, killing him.

Emily claims innocence due to not remembering what she did and Jonathan’s life is crumbling around him. As he prescribed an experimental drug, he is getting most of the blame. Instead of being found guilty, Emily is admitted into a hospital for mental health and it seems as though that is the end of it all. With his life in a mess, Jonathan cannot accept the answers he has and goes searching for what really happened in order to put things right.

What I thought
As soon as I saw the trailer for this film, I wanted to see it immediately. Although I don’t really like Jude Law that much, his role looked great and then there was the added bonus of Channing Tatum. Also, I get sick of watching the same rom-coms or action films at the cinema and this one looked really different.

Roony Mara plays Emily, the female protagonist of the film. She begins by being excited about her husband’s return home but it doesn’t last for long. Mara does a wonderful job of throwing her emotions all over the place. As someone diagnosed with severe depression, the range of drugs she takes alters her mood and she goes from crying to extremely happy from one minute to the next. Although and unknown actress to me, I think Mara did a fantastic job as Emily and she was so believable. Emily is a dark and mysterious character, leaving me thinking that there was a lot more to her than we could see. I loved watching her character develop throughout the film.

Male protagonist, Dr. Jonathan Banks is played by Jude Law, an actor who I normally cannot stand. However, I loved him in this film and it makes me want to give him another chance. Banks is a likeable character, although somewhat too into his own life at times. He clearly loves his job and wants his patients to get better. He does take on the job as a consultant for Ablixa though, a drug he knows little about and begins prescribing it to his patients. He takes the job due to needing more money and gets paid handsomely for it. The first half of the film is spent with Banks genuinely trying to make Emily better and doing what he thinks is best for her.

The second half of the film takes a huge twist though. After the murder of Emily’s husband, everything changes. Emily herself begins to change (maybe too quickly) and Banks’ life is a big, crazy mess because of the trial. Not wanting to be blamed for what happened and wanting his life back, Banks sets out to reveal the truth, even if he isn’t sure about what that is. From this point, Law turns Banks into a slightly crazy but determined character. Gone are the niceties and he becomes much darker, which I liked. This whole film revolves around people’s personalities and how quickly they can be to change, depending on the circumstances in which they are in.  

Side Effects has quite a strange pacing. While it has a long, slow build up to the real story, there is a still a lot that happens. Emily tries to kill herself, then kills her husband and then all hell breaks loose. Once the murder happens, the whole film is turned on its head and it gets to be far more exciting. What I really loved about Side Effects was its complexity. New characters are introduced and they have much more to do with the plot than you could imagine. There are secrets and lies being told within the world of prescription drugs and who controls what. Although there is a lot of talk about therapy and medication, this aspect of the film is never confusing and everything has been made easy to understand, which I appreciated. This plot could have gotten lost in the overuse of medical terms and jargon.

With an exceptionally thought out plot, twists you cannot even begin to guess about along with a wonderful cast and script, this has been one of my favourite films of the year so far.

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