Beneath the desire and behind the truth, no secret is safe. Like a ticking bomb the plot of Steven Soderbergh’s film, Side Effects moves and it’s ready to explode any minute. It is as if the baby is sitting at the edge of the tallest skyscraper in the world and within any minute the baby can make a sudden turn. Side Effects makes one sit at the edge of the seat while sweat from the forehead flows down against the skin in paranoia. It’s quite hard to describe the incidents of every scene in words as each scene, respectively, comes with a surprise. – Soderbergh at the beginning of 2013 turned 50 years old and unfortunately for us the film-maker also announced his retirement from the cinema in order to consecrate his time on painting. I say unfortunately, for Soderbergh is a true master of cinema. He jumps deep into the core of what film-making is again and provides our vision with yet another fresh concept with believable characters.
The opening shot, alright, I can’t take it. So here you go, without spoiling anything for you. The film opens with an interesting tracking shot. We are looking at a city and if memory serves me correct, we are witnessing tons of glowing red tail lights; the score by Thomas Newman injects us with a sense of calm, as it makes us to lose ourselves within the tunes. That’s why I said, if memory serves me correct. – Anyways, this particular tracking shot reminded me of Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho. The camera, in slow pace, is moving towards a window of an apartment building situated in New York. It’s interesting; also eerie and as everything unfolds during the film. It will make you say, this is such a fucked up world with some fucked up people living in it.
All I can say in my words is that Side Effects is about a sad married girl, whose husband comes home from jail. She, for some reason, cannot see herself as a normal person. So she, after an awkward incident, finds herself in the hospital. This is where we get to meet her doctor, who gives her pills. And her life begins to take shape again. – Then the bomb explodes. As you go further with these characters you will see that in the plot Soderbergh has another time bomb.
What’s interesting about Soderbergh is that he knows, as a director, where to set the camera. He takes the advantage of natural shadows, shades and the nature. He also understands how to take advantage of the atmosphere. The plot itself is eerie enough already. So he doesn’t have to recreate the mood. Interestingly, Soderbergh is his own cinematographer and editor, but credited after his father’s name Peter Andrews as director of photography and as an editor he is credited after his mother name, Mary Ann Bernard. – Besides just knowing how to set the mood for his actors, Soderbergh knows how to push his actors all the way into the core of the plot so they can comprehend their roles respectively.
Written by Scott Z. Burns, Side Effects is intelligently well put with structured scenes right from that interesting tracking shot; to me everything is that tracking shot, for we don’t only get to witness the atmosphere of the city in the beginning, but in the end as well. So pay attention. – And, whatever happens between these two tracking shots is not only twisted and dark, it’s actually quite different. It inserts into the veins a sense of coldness. The setting, costumes, hair styles, make-up, Thomas Newman’s poetic score, and the interesting fast cut and at times long shots of Soderbergh as a director of photography.
It is a game of anticipation and Soderbergh knows how to play the game. He has taken the advantage of time here. I said time, because it also means the true circumstances. It is the situations of the real world, with tons of unseen levels, which fortunately a film-maker like Soderbergh and a writer like Scott Z. Burns understand. What’s essential here is that they get to incorporate the sadistic unseen levels of the true world within the art form. This depressed girl’s doctor says, “I think she requires more observation”. – Perhaps that means also the true world. I don’t know. – I’ve seen the film about four times and every time the film starts, I say to myself, “I want my life back”.
Side Effects out now on Blu-ray/DVD, stars Jude Law, Rooney Mara, Catherine Zeta Jones, Vanessa Shaw and Channing Tatum.