Beware of the Side Effects

An Interview with Dr. Sasha Bardey, producer of the new film “Side Effects”

What’s always fascinated me, and I know it fascinated Scott (Screenwriter Scott Z. Burns) is high functioning evil. The guy who steals your car is low functioning evil, but the person who is able to manipulate people and ruin their lives, that’s high functioning evil, and that happens.

Dr. Sasha Bardey has made a career of combining two of the most challenging disciplines, psychiatry and forensics. Now, as a producer of “Side Effects,” the latest from acclaimed Director Steven Soderbergh, Bardey was instrumental in both keeping the film’s story both gripping and authentic. In his own definition of his work, Bardey explains: “a forensic psychiatrist is a psychiatrist who works on the interface of psychiatry of the law. Whenever there is a legal question that might have a psychiatric component then that’s where I comes in.”

We’ve seen this type of story time and time again in movies. Someone is killed, the accused claims insanity, both sides bicker over whether the claims are merited. The plea of insanity is as exciting in the movies as it in reality, but who is responsible for determining whether the accused is in fact mentally ill? People like Dr. Sasha Bardey. Bardey has been doing this work for almost 20 years, and he remains as fascinated by it today as he was when he first started, making the prospect of his work coming to life on the big screen all the more amazing. As Bardey explains, “What’s always fascinated me, and I know it fascinated Scott (Screenwriter Scott Z. Burns) is high functioning evil. The guy who steals your car is low functioning evil, but the person who is able to manipulate people and ruin their lives, that’s high functioning evil, and that happens.”

Much of the film’s story revolves around the usage, and misusage, of the prescriptions that doctors prescribe, something that Bardey says he faces everyday in the field. “We’re trained to be naive. If someone says that they are feeling depressed, I say tell me about it. We don’t have x-rays in psychiatry, so you have to do evaluations and you have to be careful, but you are going to get duped.”

Knowing the high abuse potential of prescription drugs makes treating patients infinitely more complicated, something Jude Law’s character finds out more and more through the story. To combat the misuse, doctors like Bardey and Jude Law’s character must become like a detective. As Bardey describes, “Jude Law’s character gets pushed into such a corner that he’s gotta take action. But he doesn’t have a gun, he uses what he knows how to do to get justice, which is something we haven’t really seen in other movies, you know, using psychiatric tools to make something that’s wrong right.”

Unlike many films, “Side Effects” conveys many useful messages to its audience, something of which Bardey is extremely proud. “I think what Soderbergh and Burns did so well is that there isn’t just one single lesson in the film. There are messages about medication, about the naive doctor, about psychopaths, about the boundaries between doctors and patients, about the criminal justice system. Most importantly though, the movie raises these issues but doesn’t take a position, it lets you make that decision.”

Foghorn Grade: B

 

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