Side Effects (2013) - Plot Summary Poster

(I) (2013)


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  • Emily Taylor, despite being reunited with her husband from prison, becomes severely depressed with emotional episodes and suicide attempts. Her psychiatrist, Jonathan Banks, after conferring with her previous doctor, eventually prescribes an experimental new medication called Ablixa. The plot thickens when the side effects of the drug lead to Emily killing her husband in a "sleepwalking" state. With Emily plea-bargained into mental hospital confinement and Dr. Banks' practice crumbling around him, the case seems closed. However, Dr. Banks cannot accept full responsibility and investigates to clear his name. What follows is a dark quest that threatens to tear what's left of his life apart even as he discovers the diabolical truth of this tragedy.

  • In New York, the insider trader Martin Taylor is released after four years in prison and his mother and his wife Emily Taylor welcome him. Unexpectedly Emily is depressed and tries to commit suicide, hitting her car against the wall in the garage. Emily goes to the hospital and the psychiatrist Dr. Jonathan Banks treats her and she decides to be his client. Dr. Banks consults her former psychiatrist Dr. Victoria Siebert and she suggests that Dr. Banks uses the new drug Ablixa in Emily's treatment. Emily tries to commit suicide again, but she returns to a normal life with Martin and occasionally has sleepwalking episodes. One day, Emily stabs her husband to death while sleepwalking and she is sent to trial. She is declared not-guilty but is forced to go to a psychiatric facility and Dr. Banks is responsible to periodically evaluate her mental condition. Dr. Banks has his career destroyed with the negative publicity and also his marriage with the unemployed financial consultant Dierdre Banks after receiving anonymous photos of Emily with him. He decides to investigate the case to clear his name and discovers that Emily faked her suicide attempts. His further investigation discloses an evil scheme in the stock market.

  • A young woman's world unravels when a drug prescribed by her psychiatrist has unexpected side effects.


The synopsis below may give away important plot points.


  • The opening shot shows blood stains. We don't know what has happened, or where, or to whom.

    Emily Taylor (Rooney Mara)'s husband Martin (Channing Tatum) is serving a four-year prison sentence for insider trading. She visits him in prison, passing through the desk guard (Carmen Peláez). As he is about to be released, Emily thanks her boss (Polly Draper) for her support. She receives her husband with joy, together with Martin's mother (Ann Dowd). That night, at their middle-class house, they make love, although she doesn't seem really focused or attached to it. Martin mentions a certain Marshall Hellman he knew while doing time who used to work as some sort of banker and may give him some marvelous job in Dubai. Marshall was in for some tax fraud, but will be out soon. Martin promises to make Emily affluent as well. Emily answers "OK, babe," but once again, she doesn't look happy, or interested, or having any kind of emotional response.

    Emily goes to the parking lot for her car. Her face looks blank, as usual. Her handbag falls down for no apparent reason, and a garage attendant (Haraldo Álvarez) helps her out. Shortly afterwards, she buckles up and drives her car into a concrete wall in an apparent suicide attempt. She seems to have let herself go.

    Meanwhile at a local hospital, Jonathan Banks (Jude Law) is trying to calm down a police officer (James Martínez) who's manhandling a patient in a rough way. The patient, Augustin (Vladimi Versailles), only speaks French, and calms down when Banks speaks to him in the same language. The problem happened to be that Augustin had seen his late father driving a cab. Jonathan tells the cop that for Haitians it's a normal assumed thing to see dead relatives after they are dead, in their process of feeling grief and getting over it. The Desk Nurse (Jacqueline Antaramian), tells Banks to tend to Emily Taylor, with a minor head trauma. Banks is her assigned psychiatrist. Emily looks unfocused when she's questioned by Banks. The insurance company is going to be on her, as there was not even an attempt to halt to a stop and the brakes look alright. Banks gives some instructions to Martin and his mother. Banks puts her on an anti-depressant medication. He fears for her safety but agrees to her release from the hospital as long as she attends sessions with him on a regular basis, on Martin's charge.

    Emily goes back to work. Her co-worker Joan (Michelle Vergara Moore) sees her running to the lavatory and asks her whether she's OK. Emily drinks some water from the tab and looks at her horrible appearance. Her boss notices her throwing up and says that the pills she's taking used to throw her up as well, and mentions another medication, Celexa, which worked better for her.

    Emily tries a series of anti-depressants but none of them work for her. Emily tells Jonathan that she wanted to be into graphic design and that's what she moved to New York. While working in a pub to pay for her school fees, she met Martin and fell in love.

    Jonathan contacts Emily's previous psychiatrist in Connecticut, Dr. Victoria Siebert (Catherine Zeta-Jones), who suggests that Jonathan put Emily on a new drug called Ablixa. Victoria says that Emily felt invisible towards her father and that she felt abandoned again when Martin went to jail, so it's better that she's seeing a male psychologist this time. Victoria says that new drugs have a kind of placebo effect in some patients, so she's trying the new med in another one of her patients. Victoria also mentions a miscarriage which Emily hadn't mentioned to Jonathan, who is reluctant to put Emily on the experimental drug.

    Jonathan and Victoria speak before a conference Victoria is about to hear. Meanwhile, Emily and Martin go to a music concert. Carl (David Costabile) has given them the tickets, and Martin thinks that this is because he was the one who went to the federals, and Carl now feels rotten about it. She tells Emily not to mention the Hellman possibility to Carl and his partner Kayla (Mamie Gummer). They dress up to the nines. Emily goes to pick the drinks from the bartender (Steven Platt). Emily looks at herself in a distorted mirror and feels that she can't go on. Kayla mentions she is also on medication. Kayla goes to fetch Martin, but Emily has to leave the room. Martin hugs her on the terraced balcony and takes her away.

    We can see the happy face of a model (Onika Day) advertising Ablixa. Emily is on the platform of an underground railway station. She looks towards a cop and prepares to jump from the platform, but the cop, Beahan (Victor Cruz), prevents her from jumping. Later, Jonathan is recommending his wife, Dierdre (Vinessa Shaw) an anxiety drug so she'll feel less nervous when she attends the job interview; she is in direct competition with two other highly-qualified candidates. Emily appears and interrupts Jonathan and Deirdre's conversation.

    As she has attempted suicide a second time by trying to jump onto the underground track, Jonathan puts her on the Ablixa. The medication works, enabling Emily to function normally except for occasional sleepwalking episodes, a side effect of the drug. Later, Banks and his two business partners, (Laila Robins and Peter Friedman) are having lunch with a drug representative (Andrea Bogart), who's praising a new medicine (Delatrex) and needs Banks start trialing it with his patients. That night, Jonathan and Deirdre's son, Ezra (Mitchell Michaliszyn), interrupts their intimate moment.

    Emily is happy again, walking down the street with Martin, laughing, having passionate sex with him. Martin notices the change in Emily and comments that, whoever invented that pill, is going to become rich. However, one night, Emily gets up in the middle of the night, prepares lunch and sets the music volume high, but she is sleepwalking. Martin wants to stop the medication, but Emily doesn't want to change it. Martin goes to visit Hellman in prison and plans to open an office in Houston. Another patient of Banks (Elizabeth Rich) agrees to start the medication because she doesn't need to pay a cent for it. Emily arrives late to work and cannot explain why she's late. Her boss tells her to go home for the day, but that it can't happen again. Back home, Emily takes a pill and is able to smile.

    Jonathan consoles Dierdre was unsuccessful in her job interview. Martin comes home after talking to Hellman, and it looks like the business will succeed. Emily is preparing a glorious romantic dinner, but without even opening her mouth, she stabs Martin to death while seemingly sleepwalking. The next day, NYPD Detective (Scott Shepherd) questions her, and she says that she went to sleep and then woke up to see him dead. Jonathan has to go to the police station, as Emily won't stop saying his name. Emily was setting the table for three, but Jonathan wasn't expected there. Jonathan brings out the sleepwalking side effect, but the detective and the Assistant District Attorney (Michael Nathanson) look at each other in disbelief. The ADA tells him that somebody will be punished, Emily or Jonathan: either Emily is a murderer, or Jonathan mistreated her.

    Emily is brought to trial by Klein (Timothy Klein), and Jonathan fights for her acquittal. He is criticized publicly for fumbling Emily's case. Emily is pushed to take some sleep pills by the prison's doctor, but she says that she doesn't want to see another pill in her life again. Victoria tells Jonathan that he couldn't have done anything else. Emily's lawyer (Sheila Tapia) produces cases in which the accused was acquitted because of the sleepwalking idea. Banks is in dire straits, and he admits to that. Martin's mother is paying the lawyer. Banks can't sleep now because of Emily's case. Emily writes a letter and Martin's mother reads it in a TV program. The TV anchor (Josh Elliott) tries to understand why she is helping her daughter-in-law. Nobody from the Ablixa factory wants to comment, but Dr. Peter Joubert (Sasha Bardey) says there are reasons for the compulsory inclusion of a black box in the anti-depressant box. Reporters (Ashley Morrison and Steve Lacy) pester the three Banks household members. Banks' patients (Ken Marks & Devin Ratray) start acting weird because of the case. Banks' colleagues assume he has been negligent due to his heavy work-load. Jeffrey Childs (Russell G. Jones) interrogates Jonathan Banks. Jonathan claims that because his wife lost his job, and all the bills he had to pay pushed him to do multiple shifts. Emily eventually agrees to plead insanity; she is declared not guilty on the condition that she stay in a mental institution until cleared by a psychiatrist.

    Due to the case's bad publicity, Jonathan's career is left in ruins, although he tries to reassure Dierdre. One of the partners brings up the case of Alison Finn, while Jonathan was doing his residency, a girl who stalked him and named him in her suicide note. He says that the oral sex idea with Alison was a fantasy, not real. However, he sets out to clear his name and uncovers evidence that not only did Emily fake her suicide attempts, but was involved in a criminal conspiracy with Victoria, all that with an internet search. Sleepwalking was a side effect of the medicine but Victoria didn't warn Jonathan, and he didn't check.

    After his conversation with Victoria, Jonathan speaks with the parking attendant at the beginning, who noticed that Emily was wearing her seat-belt. Emily's boss understood Emily's feeling because she felt the same during a hard time in her life, and mentions William Syron's Darkness Visible book. The boss mentions a "poisonous fog" taken from the book, which reminds Jonathan of something which Emily said. Jonathan looks for a Julia which used to work alongside Emily, but there is only a Susan (Susan Gross). Dierdre has to go out and pick up Ezra from school because Jonathan forgot. Dierdre is fed-up.

    Jonathan interviews Emily at the mental hospital. She looks better. Emily tells Jonathan that Julia was somebody she used to work with at the bar, but from whom she hadn't heard from the day of the killing. Jonathan tells Dierdre his suspicions of a conspiracy to make rival companies go up in the stock market. Dierdre tells him to quit the case. After being administered what Jonathan claims is a truth serum. Emily behaves as if she's groggy from the drug, mentioning Madeleine, the miscarriage she had, which unbeknownst to her is actually a placebo: saltwater. This confirms Jonathan's suspicions, but the District Attorney cannot do anything about it.

    When Jonathan confronts Victoria with his findings and the fact that Victoria visited Emily at the mental hospital. She emails photographs to Jonathan's wife implying he had an affair with Emily; Jonathan's wife and stepson leave him. Jonathan manages to turn Emily and Victoria against each other by using legal means to prevent contact between them and making each believe that her partner had sold her out to Jonathan for a better deal.

    One day, Emily wants to phone her lawyer, but another patient is on the phone (Nicole Ansari-Cox), mumbling and taking forever to finish. Emily insists to the Wards Island desk nurse (LaChanze), who tells her that Dr. Banks has forbidden her to use the phone anyway. An orderly (Craig Grant) takes Emily away by sheer force. Another nurse (Alice Niedermair-Ludwig) injects something in her arm to calm her down.

    Emily reveals the workings of the plot to Jonathan: she enjoyed the rich life and hated Martin for causing her to lose it. She specifically went to Victoria for counseling as she, too, had been abandoned by her husband, and the two began a romantic and sexual relationship. They taught each other about the workings of the financial world and faking psychiatric disorders. They then went to elaborate means to fake the side effects of Ablixa in order to manipulate the stock prices of the drug's manufacturer and its competitor, allowing the duo to become rich in the process.

    Jonathan asks the judge to release Emily, while Victoria is present. Victoria has returned back to her office and her previous work. Emily appears at Victoria's practice and they kiss each other passionately. Emily is wired and the police take Victoria away.

    In the next scene, Emily makes her obligatory visit to Dr. Banks, who proceeds to prescribe her more drugs against her wishes. As she storms out of his office, she sees her lawyer with Martin's mother, who slaps her because she's learned that her son's murder was intentional. Emily leaves the building and the police officers (Dennis Rees & Aaron Roman Weiner) chase her down and take her into custody and send her back to the mental ward.

    In the final scene, Jonathan has regained his normal life with his wife and son, and they get together after Ezra's school. Meanwhile, Emily sits in the ward, staring blankly out the window. A psychiatric nurse asks Emily how she's feeling, and she responds by saying apathetically: "Better. Much better."

    Outside her hospital room, life goes on, with all the noise of the traffic jam and the never-stopping life.

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