The beleaguered heroine at the centre of Steven Soderbergh’s film is mousy office worker Emily Taylor (Rooney Mara).
She is crippled with anxiety about the impending release of her jailbird husband, Martin (Channing Tatum), who has served four years for insider trading.
“Every afternoon, it’s like this poisonous fog bank rolling in on my mind,” Emily explains to top psychiatrist Jonathan Banks (Jude Law), who has been asked to assess her after a failed suicide attempt. Jonathan prescribes a new medication called Ablixa to calm Emily’s nerves.
Soon after, in a drug-induced haze, the wife commits an unspeakable act and, as the media swarm, attention soon turns to Jonathan’s culpability for supplying the pills that led to an act of unimaginable violence.
Jonathan’s wife Dierdre (Vinessa Banks) and business partners abandon him in his hour of need.
Faced with the prospect of losing his medical licence, Jonathan investigates Ablixa, aided by Emily’s former shrink, Dr Victoria Siebert (Catherine Zeta-Jones).
Side Effects is built on the rock-solid foundations of Burns’s script, which repeatedly pulls the rug from under us just as we are beginning to think we know what is going on.
Plot strands become deliciously tangled, and there’s undeniable pleasure watching the characters try in vain to wriggle free from the complex web of lies.