Film Talk – Side Effects

So this week I watched Side Effects and was surprised at how much I enjoyed it. I enjoyed it so much in fact that I ended up watching it twice.

It’s a film that slips and slides through tone and tropes and even genre but, crucially, it’s handled in a way that you don’t question any of this. It’s a well handled, tightly controlled film.

The storyline is basically that a woman starts taking a new medication for her depression and, you guessed it, they have side effects.

Watching it back a second time is definitely worth doing so that you appreciate more the way it fits together and the way it was shot. For example, quite early on we get this shot of Emily Taylor (played by Rooney Mara)


Now this is a pretty standard way of showing someone that is in a deep struggle. They look into a mirror at an angle where it makes their reflection all messed up and it reflects their inner turmoil and struggle and it makes sense because Emily is struggling to cope at that point in the film. Except, after you’ve seen the film in its entirety you’ll appreciate the way the film has played and toyed with these sorts of things.

After The Informant, this is the second film from the Soderbergh/Burns director/writer link up that I’ve enjoyed and am planning to watch Contagion now as well.

Recently I’ve been talking about the importance of environment on behaviour and how things can happen that alter the way you act and behave, which is something that I described as inherently dramatic. After all, all stories basically get their energy from changes and shifts in protagonists environments.

But away from the drama of fiction and bringing it back to real life, I thought that Side Effects had some interesting things to say. At one point in the film, Jude Law’s character is asked why he decided to move to America to be a psychiatrist (He’s originally from England). He replies that in England the thinking is that if you take medication for things like depression you are sick whereas in America the view is you are getting better.

That is a distinction that I believe to be true. I certainly do not think things like psychiatrists and medication are yet as accepted as they are in America but I can see that these are cultural differences that are slowly evaporating as we move towards a more American model.

Anyhow, the reliance on medication is something which fascinates me because it is a window into not only how we deal with things now, but the lives we have built for ourselves as human beings.

It’s no secret that for a lot of people, their lives are unbalanced and skewed far away from what could be described a ‘natural’ existence.  From the hours we work to the way we are ‘plugged in’ 24/7 to our phones and laptops and TV’s.

There is an inherent lack of balance in terms of rest and work and relaxation. There isn’t much emphasis placed on building inner strength and structure and calm. Modern life is a system that, if you are benefiting from it by being at the top of the food chain, must be very nice, but a lot of people are not. It is all about consumption and I’ve spoken before about the perniciousness of advertising but the world we live in is, to simplify, this: Work, consume, repeat.

It seems that more and more people feel the need to turn to professionals for help because they feel hopeless or not whole and really it is no surprise because the model of living we have is vacuous and vapid. And then, hilariously, these people are offered pills, pills that, as described by Jude Law’s character, block serotonin and stop the brain from telling you you’re sad.

Now, I’m not saying medication is always the wrong option but I think, on balance, maybe it’s a perfectly reasonable response to feel sad and hopeless in some cases. The trouble is, the ultimate cure for I imagine a lot of people, would be to live a different life that rejects the mainstream way of living. Of course, that is something that can seem so difficult that maybe a pill seems the best option and for a while, yeah, you might feel better and you might even forget you have a personal crisis in the first place. But at some point, who’s to say the part of you that craves something, for want of a better word, spiritually nourishing, won’t start knocking on the door again?

A job, house, car, clothes are all just one part of a persons psyche.

I think you can see why in my ‘About’ page I say this blog is just me rambling on.

Anyway, I won’t ramble on any more here except for something else Jude Law’s character says in the film. He explains how a psychologist once said that depression is not being able to construct a future, which will be the lead in to my next film post on Silver Linings Playbook.    

A Song

For some reason for the first time I didn’t include a song on my Friday post so here’s one today.



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