Review: ‘Side Effects’ (MA) *** and a half

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STEPHEN Soderbergh says this non-violent (apart from one domestic murder) thriller is his last big-screen film before moving to TV.

Its complex plot develops after Emily (Rooney Mara) who, when the cops ask her about stabbing her husband Martin (Channing Tatum) with a large, French-cook’s knife, says she has no memory of the event.

Enter psychiatrist John Banks (Jude Law), experimenting a variety of medications to help her through what a reasonable observer might call a sad and difficult situation.

Emily has, while Martin did four years’ for insider trading, also consulted Victoria, another psychiatrist, played by Catherine Zeta-Jones with a suppressed malevolence that sits uncomfortably with her striking beauty. The notion of wickedness lurking beneath beauty is not so much a cliché as a dramatic device that has sustained many a movie. Sharon Stone in “Basic Instinct” merely gave it a new dimension.

In the interest of forensic righteousness, John pursues Emily’s problem at the expense of domestic stability, bending rather than breaking a few ethical principles in his search for truth.

The process makes for challenging cinema because Soderbergh massages Scott Burns’s screenplay into well-honed tensions in which the guilty are not those whom we most suspect. Or have we missed a significant clue? Indeed, we might have. It’s there staring at us when we hark back to it. Cunning stuff that respects our intelligence by challenging it.

At Dendy, Palace, Hoyts and Limelight

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Dougal Macdonald
“CityNews” film reviewer

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