Today I went out and saw Side Effects. I hadn’t read any reviews, extensively looked into the movie, no research whatsoever. I was a bit blind, going in, which also means that I was completely unbiased. And in this case, unbiased was a very good thing.
In the end, the only word I can use to describe this movie is… strange. I actually said “wakadoodle” to a friend, but strange is a bit better. I don’t really know what to rate it, because I couldn’t pin down the story or characters at all. In that aspect, then, I have to give it a 10/10, or 5/5, simply because of the complexity.
If you step back and look at it in black and white, there isn’t much that really goes on, if you were to assess the scenes and what occurs. There’s a lot of sitting around in various doctors’ offices. Normally, I wouldn’t approve, as I tend to prefer movies with more events and action.
In this case, more action would have detracted from the themes and questions that ran underneath the surface. These, of course, don’t pop into your head until after you walk out of the theatre. While you’re watching, you had to keep your eyes and ears trained on the screen. Miss one second and you’ve lost any thread of understanding you thought you had. Just when you think you’ve figured out the plot or characters and their motivation, the rug is swept from underneath your feet.
What I found to be really fantastic about this movie was the moral ambiguity that the characters embodied. You think you know good from bad, but then that is twisted and thrown into the shades of grey, only to have those conclusions thrown out the window again. You know who you want to be right, but everything is pointing against their case. In this case, it’s a bit like math: ride the coaster and hope you figure out the equation in the end. Jude Law and Rooney Mara were the highlight with their performances in this aspect.
I think this movie also raises a really important question: how responsible is a doctor (in this case a psychiatrist) for his patient and their actions? Should he be responsible for every waking action of a patient, even one taking pills on the doctor’s orders? Another question, as well: if a medication causes horrid side effects, is it the doctor or the medicine that is to blame? How much responsibility should be taken by third parties, or should it all be placed on the patient?
Side Effects was a movie that leaves you a bit disquieted at the end. It can’t be pinned down. It isn’t one that you walk out of the theatre raving about, or one that you immediately slander. It’s a bit… quiet. In the end, I really did enjoy it. I give it a 9/10, or 4/5. There were some slower parts, but they all served their purpose.
As a last note: this is a rated R movie, and I don’t really recommend it for anyone under 17. Obey the law, people. There’s a reason they exist.