Re:View – ‘Side Effects’
If Steven Soderbergh follows through on his threat to give up directing, Hollywood will have lost its best player, certainly on the evidence of this, his supposedly last film.
It starts as an ominous long-take character study of a tormented woman. Rooney Mara’s husband spent four years in prison for insider trading and seems likely to get into trouble again. She’s been prescribed a new anti-depression drug to raise her serotonin levels, and on the surface at least seems to be on the mend. But after driving her car head-on into a wall, her psychiatrist (Jude Law) starts wondering if the drug has side effects he hasn’t taken into account.
Consulting fellow psychiatrist (Catherine Zeta-Jones, superb) Law starts to see what a mess psychiatry is in with its compromised (and compromising) attitude to drug prescription, even though he is consulting for the drug industry. He worries that his patient will try to harm herself again, and worse is to follow, with a shocker of a scene that made our audience gasp.
But just when you think Soderbergh will follow other issue-driven films with as fictional account of the pharmaceutical industry, his writer turns the thing on its head and presents us with a Hitchcockian thriller that becomes increasingly ingenious right up to its final moments. It’s truly the kind of film they don’t make anymore.
Everyone is on superb form here, and it’s a pleasure to watch actors actually acting, cinematography that shines and mis en scene – remember that old-school technique? – which really works. A deeply satisfying note on which to bow out, but I hope it’s not his last.