Director: Steven Soderbergh; starring: Jude Law, Rooney Mara, Channing Tatum and Catherine Zeta-Jones; Roadshow, 2013, 106 mins, available on DVD, $39.99
Side Effects, it initially seems, is a movie about the immorality of the pharmaceutical industry and those complicit in its excesses and evils.
Emily (Rooney Mara) has enjoyed the good life her investment banker husband Martin (Channing Tatum) was able to provide for her until he was arrested and sentenced to jail for insider trading. The film starts with his release and the young couple are looking forward to a new start in life. Then Emily deliberately crashes her car into a brick wall. Taken to hospital, she is assessed by psychiatrist Dr Jon Banks (Jude Law) who suspects Emily attempted suicide. He is persuaded not to treat her as an inpatient and instead prescribes an unnamed SSRI (Selective Serotonin Re-uptake Inhibitor) to help with her depression. Martin, asking what the medication does, is told that ‘it helps stop the brain from telling you you’re sad’. This commonly-used explanation is much nicer than the reality: that we don’t really know how SSRIs work for depression, or whether they’re effective at all.