Just as her disgraced hedge-fund manager (Channing Tatum) is released from prison and her upscale and outwardly enviable New York life appears to be back on track, 28-year-old Emily Taylor (Rooney Mara) drives her car into a wall in an apparent suicide attempt.
Jude Law plays Dr Banks, the psychiatrist who treats her depression with a range of antidepressants called SSRIs: first Zoloft, which causes her some unpleasant side effects, then Ablixa, which is fictional, but in the same class of SSRIs.
This has side effects resulting in an unexpected and violent death. By this stage, Steven Soderbergh's classy new thriller – his third from a smart script by the writer Scott Z Burns – has asked pointed questions about America's prescription drugs problem; the medicalisation of ordinary feelings and personality traits; and the potentially unhealthy collusion between big pharma and the psychiatric and legal professions.
In fact, the thicket of issues it raises in the first half is so thorny that it's almost a shame when the plot really kicks into gear, and Side Effects develops into a slick, twisty, almost Hitchcockian affair.
Luckily, Soderbergh's direction remains understated, the film retains the hushed but charged atmosphere of an expensive psychiatrist's office, and you can enjoy the rising sense of panic which the drama induces, safe in the knowledge that the director is in control.