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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
The movie raises thought-provoking questions about whether society is too quick to medicate our problems. It also raises questions about whether medication is necessary or effective.
Positive Role Models
Though one character starts out by genuinely trying to help another character in need, nothing is quite as it seems. The characters in this movie are mostly selfish, conniving, greedy, and even homicidal. They make poor choices and don't learn anything positive or grow in any positive way.
Violence & Scariness
A bloody murder, via stabbing. It's foreshadowed in the opening minutes of the movie, with a trail of blood leading through a home. A character attempts suicide by crashing a car into a wall and puts herself in danger in another situation as well. Various scenes of arguing, screaming, and struggling.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
The main character is shown topless and mostly naked. She has more than one sex scene with her husband, with sex noises and thrusting shown (male nudity isn't shown). A sensual kiss and sexual suggestion between a psychiatrist and her female patient.
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Language isn't constant but includes a few uses of "f--k," "s--t," "bitch," "damn," "goddamn," and "oh my God."
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Products & Purchases
Many actual antidepressants and other drugs are mentioned by name, and they're shown as consumer products that patients should desire. A fake drug, Ablixa -- complete with advertising (and a website) -- is part of the movie's plot. Red Bull, Yahoo!, Volkswagen, BMW, Rolling Rock beer, and Visine products/brand names are shown and/or mentioned.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Though the movie isn't about substance abuse, it's heavily about the use of antidepressants and other prescription medications. It's also about the side effects of these drugs. The main character is shown to be on several different kinds of drugs, behaving in different ways. Overall, though, the movie never truly endorses or condemns these drugs. Social drinking by adult characters.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Steven Soderbergh's Side Effects is a twisty thriller centered on psychiatry and antidepressants. There's murder (by stabbing) and blood, as well as some argumentative, aggressive scenes in hospitals. The main character appears topless and mostly naked and participates in more than one strongly suggestive sex scene with her husband; there are also sensual scenes between two female characters. Language is strong but not constant and includes a few uses of "f--k" and "s--t." Drugs are perhaps the movie's main issue, with the main characters taking many different types of prescriptions and reacting in various ways. The movie never really seems to endorse or condemn these drugs, leaving it up to the viewer to decide. Older teens may find the questions the movie raises interesting, and it may open up important discussions with their parents. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
There's enough good stuff here to give the movie a pass, though it could have been a great deal more. After a distinguished, prolific, and varied career, director Steven Soderbergh has announced that SIDE EFFECTS will be his last film. It's too bad, then, that although the movie has Soderbergh's unique textures and use of sound, as well as an unusually perceptive human touch, it's not one of his best. The first half -- based on characters and ideas -- is promising. Mara is touching as the wounded, achingly sad Emily, and the issue of whether and how to medicate her is expertly raised. (In an interesting antithesis scene, a Haitian boy who has seen a ghost is, due to his cultural beliefs, not considered sick.)
But Side Effects' second half turns entirely to a twisty, surprise-heavy plot that relies on quick shocks to prevent viewers from digging too deeply into its shaky logic. Without giving anything away, most of it is very far-fetched.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.