In 2017, I published an article on the 2011 Steven Soderbergh film Contagion in a collection of essays titled Melodrama Unbound.
The director and actors of Contagion describe this project as “ultra-realistic,” and proudly tout the consultations with scientists working on SARS, the West Nile virus, and smallpox as evidence of their commitment to facts. However, despite this realism, the film also utilizes a number of major and minor melodramas throughout. Why does the film need these melodramatic excursions? In this piece, I closely examine the film in order to develop a theoretical understanding of the function of the melodramatic mode in texts that do not primarily present themselves as melodramas.