Film / Side Effects

Side Effects is a 2013 drama/thriller movie directed by Steven Soderbergh. It stars Jude Law, Rooney Mara, Channing Tatum, and Catherine Zeta-Jones.

The film is initially about Emily's (Mara) struggle with depression following her husband's four-year imprisonment for insider trading. Having been "swept off her feet" by the rich and charming Martin (Tatum) at only twenty-three, Emily found out the hard way where his money came from when he was imprisoned just a year after their marriage. Enter Dr. Banks (Law), a psychiatrist who seems to be able to help Emily with a new anti-depressant drug, Ablixa. But as it turns out, Ablixa has powerful and dangerous side effects...


  • Magic Feather/Spotting the Thread: The truth serum Banks gives Emily was a placebo, but she acts as though she were given an actual dose.
  • Never Trust a Trailer: The trailer plays up the medical drama aspect of the movie, emphasizing the idea of Emily dealing with her medicine's side effects and mentioning that it was made by the folks behind Contagion. While the side effects are relevant, there is a LOT more going on in the movie.
  • Product Placement: Dr Banks drinks Red Bull, uses Apple laptops and Blackberry phones, and drives a BMW. Crazy people drive Volkswagen.
  • Reality Has No Subtitles: Dr Banks interviews an agitated Haitian in untranslated French, but then summarises the conversation for the cop who brought him in. The man had seen his dead father driving a taxi: apparently grieving Haitians often see the dead. "Weird for us, normal for them."
  • Red Herring: The movie knows you're watching thriller with a massive Chekhov's Armory, and drops as many clues as it can about the makers of Ablixa being behind Martin's murder without following through on any of it.
    • There's also a lot of Subtext suggesting that Banks will be the actual villain. Again, this isn't the case.
    • The exit signs prominent during Emily's first two episodes could be a subversion. On the one hand, they have no relevance to the plot, but they could also be symbolic of Emily's plan to leave ("exit") with the money she got from Siebert.
  • The Reveal: A big, long one towards the end. Emily and Siebert began sleeping together after Emily saw her for the first time. They taught each other their respective skillsets (Siebert showing Emily how to act depressed and Emily explaining what Martin had taught her about financial markets) and orchestrated the whole deal with Ablixa to get rich off the stock market. Banks was just a random casualty of the scheme.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Banks goes on this as the film progresses. Ditto for Emily.
  • Surprisingly Sudden Death: Sleepwalking had already been established as odd but harmless, but in its second appearance there's a rather literal Gut Punch
  • Took a Level in Badass: Banks starts off as a polite, well-meaning, and competent psychiatrist. After Emily and Siebert ruin his life he becomes a ruthless, full-blown Magnificent Bastard in the course of exacting his vengeance.
  • White Collar Crime: Why Emily's husband was in jail. Also, it is possible to make money on the stock exchange by betting that a company's shares will go down, rather than up. If you know that a pharmaceutical company's new anti-depressant is going to get some very bad publicity for its side effects, then it's a pretty safe bet.