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SIDE EFFECTS AND RISKS

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by Michael Kreihsl

grade: 7

Extremely complex moral issues bring up secrets and grudges, while at the same time giving rise to merciless revenge. Side Effects and Risks stages all this in a never banal or predictable way (thanks also – and above all – to the play by Stefan Vögel from which it is inspired), proving to be a deep and entertaining film at the same time, which, however, precisely because of the particular directorial approach adopted, would seem more appropriate for television broadcasting.

In sickness and in health

Director Michael Kreihsl is one of the most popular names in contemporary Austrian comedy. In his films – in which delicate family dynamics are often called into question – the continuous dialogue between the characters – together with the difficulty of understanding each other – leads to never obvious solutions. This is also the case, for example, with Side Effects and Risks, made in 2021, based on the play Die Niere by Stefan Vögel and premiered in Italy on the occasion of the festival Sotto le Stelle dell’Austria 2022.

In Side Effects and Risks, therefore, we witness a rather complex situation. Kathrin (played by Inka Friedrich) has been married to Arnold (Samuel Finzi) for many years and everything seems to be going well. When, however, she finds out that she will have to undergo a kidney transplant and that her husband has a blood type compatible with hers, the man goes into a crisis, as he is strongly worried about his own health, should he have to give his wife his kidney. When their friend Götz (Thomas Mraz) volunteers to donate, things will become even more complicated and the numerous arguments between them will also involve the latter’s wife, Diana (Pia Hierzegger).

Michael Kreihsl has often made many TV films. And this, of course, is also evident when he makes a feature film for cinema. In Side Effects and Risks, therefore, a purely television character is combined with a theatrical setting, in which the dialogues are the absolute protagonists together with subtle glances between the four protagonists and successful close-ups, further enhanced by the excellent acting performances.

Extremely complex moral issues bring up secrets and grudges, while at the same time giving rise to merciless revenge. Side Effects and Risks stages all this in a never banal or predictable way (thanks also – and above all – to Stefan Vögel’s play on which it is based), proving to be a deep and at the same time entertaining film, which would probably, precisely because of the particular directorial approach adopted, seem more suitable for television broadcasting. But that’s all right. After all, this approach (with the exception, perhaps, of only a few films made between the late 1980s and early 1990s) has always characterised Michael Kreihsl’s filmography.

However, in Side Effects and Risks, the director has undertaken a deep and meticulous analysis not only of the human soul, but also of complex relationships. Often one word too much, as well as an apparently ‘harmless’ facial expression, can lead to the most extreme consequences. Surprises are not lacking. The food for thought is not lacking either. And in an hour and a half of healthy laughter, this is undoubtedly an excellent added value.

Original title: Risiken und Nebenwirkungen
Directed by: Michael Kreihsl
Country/year: Austria / 2021
Running time: 88’
Genre: comedy, romance
Cast: Samuel Finzi, Inka Friedrich, Pia Hierzegger, Thomas Mraz, Tijan Marei, Michaela Kis, Daniela Mutafova, Thomas Schubert, Susanna Wiegand, August Zirner
Screenplay: Michael Kreihsl, Stefan Vögel
Cinematography: Wolfgang Thaler
Produced by: Epo-Film

Info: the page of Side Effects and Risks on iMDb; the page of Side Effects and Risks on the website of the Österreichisches Filminstitut; the page of Side Effects and Risks on the website of the Austrian Film Commission