Steven Spielberg's powerful film, Bridge of Spies, asks some compelling psychological questions. Could there be two more different men than a Brooklyn lawyer in 1957 at the height of the Cold War and an alleged Russian spy – or are they different at all? And, if they aren’t, what is it exactly that forms an unexpected human bond in the face of hostile forces trying to bring them down? With James B. Donovan (Tom Hanks) and Rudolf Abel (Mark Rylance) that connection boils down to one complex thing: being A Standing Man. What it means to be A Standing Man is at the...

There are opportunists in the mind that take over in states of emotional deprivation. Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne) in Director George Miller's western style post apocalyptic film, Mad Max:Fury Road, is a good example. As a psychoanalyst who treats severe depressive states, I found this film a fascinating allegorical tale of the conditions under which mental tyrants take over, as well as the kinds of control they exert. We see in the characters of Max (Tom Hardy), Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron), and Nux (Nicholas Hoult), what it takes to fight these tyrannical forces and also what causes that fight, in some,...

Steve Jobs is a brilliantly conceived and emotionally revealing film by screenwriter Aaron Sorkin and director Danny Boyle. According to both, this film is a human story not a biopic. I agree. As we get to know Jobs through the filmmakers’ eyes and Michael Fassbender’sperformance, we are taken into the heartbreaking roots of his controlling behavior. If we look closely at the effects of his earliest days, it’s possible to understand why some people use their intellect over feeling – to stonewall any recognition of the need to give or receive love. A Baby Film, of course, takes artistic license. I didn’t...

Director Lenny Abrahamson and writer Emma Donoghue's film, ROOM, takes us directly into the emotional experience of trauma. As the film opens, we hear a young boy’s voice introducing us to a girl named Ma. Kidnapped, stolen from her life, and kept in ROOM for seven years, Ma lives in a world as incomprehensible as Alice’s in Alice in Wonderland. Those victimized by trauma know its terror. Yet that terror,  not manageable alone, is put far aside someplace else in order not to feel it. What kind of help do those who’ve been severely traumatized need to slowly give words to terror? Terror Terror is a...

The Big Short, directed by Adam McKay, starring Christian Bale, Ryan Gosling, Steve Carell, and Brad Pitt, tells more than the story of the U.S. housing bubble from 2001 to 2005 and the risky advantages taken by mortgage companies, hedge funds, and investment bankers to profit from it. I’m a psychoanalyst not an economist. The housing bubble is one thing. Living in psychological bubbles leads to dangerous behaviors and disastrous consequences, not unlike the 2008 U.S. economic crash. Selina Gomez, at the blackjack table, says it well: “I’m on a winning streak … how could I lose, right?” Believing Things That “Just...

“If it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a village to abuse one” M. Garabedian Secrets are damaging. The film, Spotlight, directed by Tom McCarthy, tells the story of one very pernicious secret uncovered by an investigative team, named Spotlight, at the Boston Globe. That secret, the wide spread sexual abuse by Catholic priests of many young congregants, managed to evade attention for years even though it was right under people’s noses. Why? The coercions that maintain secrecy, both external and internal, must be taken seriously in order for abuse victims to come forward and get help. The Secret Cardinal Bernard...

As much as I loved Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Birdman, I can’t say I felt the same about The Revenant. I know the film won big at the Golden Globes and has received Oscar nods for Best Picture and Best Actor. Perhaps that’s because a fantasy lives deep inside us about exacting revenge where we believe revenge is due. Still, spending close to 3 hours watching the agonies of a man who’s brutally mauled by a bear, who can’t catch a break, is left to die by supposed friends, and has to endure one gruesome circumstance after another became almost unbearably tedious. Yet,...

Director Tom Hopper’s beautifully conceived film, The Danish Girl, begins and ends with artist Einar Wegener’s paintings of barren trees. The barrenness in these trees tells volumes about the lonely depletion of a self when the real self is split off and hidden. The story of artist Einar Wegener’s courageous transition from male to female, together with Eddie Redmayne’s tour de force performance as Lili Elbe, offers timely support to counteract the still current and often egregious misunderstanding and mistreatment the transgender population suffers. Yet as a psychoanalyst watching the film, I was rivetingly aware of how Lili’s emergence speaks...

“Now the truth of the matter is that there are a lot of things people don’t understand. Take the Einstein theory. Take taxes. Take love. Do you understand them? Neither do I. But they exist. They happen.” - Dalton Trumbo Dalton Trumbo is right. Things we don’t understand do happen. And, some things we don’t understand invoke intense fear. Jay Roach and John McNamara's timely and historical film, Trumbo, illuminates the terrors set off by the anti-Communist hysteria of the late 40’s and 50’s. Out of these dark days of the Cold War came persecutors and their victims, evidenced in the...

Home is where we start from. This truth, and the title of one of D.W. Winnicott’s books, captures much unspoken about the impact our families have on how we develop. What happens to us in those environments sets the tone for differing separation struggles we see in young people, including Eilis Lacey (Saoirse Ronan) the main character in John Crowley and Nick Hornby’s film, Brooklyn. For Eilis, an Irish girl transplanted to Brooklyn in the 1950’s, the severe homesickness that settles in arises out of the emotional residues of a difficult mother. A Difficult Mother Eilis’ only parent is her mother (Jane Brennan)....