Side Effects

Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
Side Effects Movie Poster Image
Thriller's twisty plot overshadows thought-provoking themes.
  • R
  • 2013
  • 106 minutes

Parents say

age 15+
Based on 3 reviews

Kids say

age 15+
Based on 4 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

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 & Representations

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

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.

Sex

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.

Language

Language isn't constant but includes a few uses of "f--k," "s--t," "bitch," "damn," "goddamn," and "oh my God."

Consumerism

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.

What 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.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written bywonder dove July 8, 2013

Suspenseful

Side Effects was a pretty good watch, but not near as thrilling as I'd hoped. I agree with the Commonsense review, that it could have done a lot better. I... Continue reading
Adult Written bychristian2011 September 3, 2013

An intense thrill ride throughout. Entertaining, shocking and compelling!

Side Effects is a dark, tense psychological crime thriller which is chalk full of major plot twists and some characters actions (that unveils halfway through th... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written byBestMan333 April 13, 2013

Thought-Provoking Film With Non-Stop Thrilling Storyline

This film is one of my favorite flicks!!! This movie does deal with intense material including suicide and drug prescriptions, with scenes of partial nudity, bu... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written bychanningtatumlover21 March 12, 2013

AMAZING MOVIE iffy for young teens

im 13 and i watched side effects and i was just fine and my parents were comfortable with me watching it, my parents trust my judgement and i am a bit more matu... Continue reading

What's the story?

Emily Taylor (Rooney Mara) is depressed. She knows she should be feeling better, since her husband, Martin (Channing Tatum), has been released from prison after serving a term for insider trading. But she just doesn't. After a suicide attempt, she meets psychiatrist Dr. Jonathan Banks (Jude Law), who decides to put Emily on antidepressants. Dr. Banks also meets with Emily's former doctor, Dr. Victoria Siebert (Catherine Zeta-Jones), as well. Unfortunately, he switches Emily to a new drug called Ablixa, which causes her to sleepwalk -- and worse. When something terrible happens during one of Emily's episodes, it starts to look as if Dr. Banks is to blame. But has he been set up? And, if so, how can he fight back?

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.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how Side Effects depicts prescription drugs. Does it make antidepressants and other medications look appealing? Do the consequences seem realistic?

  • What is the movie saying about turning to medication as a solution for problems? How much work does the main character put into getting better, and how much of it is the responsibility of the pills?

  • Talk about the major violent scene. How necessary was it to the story? Does it add or take away from the movie's themes?

  • Which of these characters (if any) did you end up rooting for? Are any of them role models?

Movie details

For kids who love thrills

Our editors recommend

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

See how we rate

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

Our ratings are based on child development best practices. We display the minimum age for which content is developmentally appropriate. The star rating reflects overall quality and learning potential.

Learn how we rate