We all need love. Age doesn’t lessen that. Yet, sometimes it’s hard to trust love, for complicated reasons, even though you want it. John Madden’s The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel gives us a bird’s eye view into 6 serious obstacles to love. In my experience as a psychologist, the reasons for putting love off are often not conscious. That’s where help comes in handy - especially if you keep coming up against the same problem again and again. The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel illustrates some of these emotional roadblocks quite well: Expecting not to be wanted  Evelyn (Judi Dench) and...

With The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel opening on Friday, March 6th, I thought I’d review what the first heartfelt and hopeful film tells us about change at any age. Change is hard. Especially if you’re discouraged by losses, disappointments, stale marriages, difficult parents, and unresolved fears. Yet, this film gives us some important pointers about what allows for change – whether you’re in your senior years or still young. Here are 6 I’ve found helpful in my work as a psychologist and psychoanalyst. 1. Let Go of Old Grievances: Muriel (Maggie Smith) Carrying around grievances shuts you down. Isolates you. Can...

Amy Elliot Dunne is a seriously troubled young woman. Rosamund Pike’s nuanced and chilling performance, in David Fincher’s Gone Girl, does her troubles justice. Yet, can we merely write her off as an unredeemable sociopath? If we follow some clues to what drove her to do what she did - is it even remotely possible to find a bit of sympathy? Clue 1: Traumatic Childhood Trauma comes in many forms. Amy’s trauma is this: she’s never as good as Amazing Amy, her parent’s fictional daughter. “Never as good as.” That’s crushing to a child. Now, she watches for this everywhere. Expecting it. Hiding...

The Academy Award winning film, Ida by Pawel Pawlikowski, is beautifully poignant visually, thematically, and psychologically. A haunting story of loss and the sometimes- unwinnable struggle against the overwhelming feelings involved. Loss is difficult under any circumstance. In Ida, we witness an aunt and niece estranged in the aftermath of the Nazi occupation in Poland. Both victims of almost inconceivable losses, they take very divergent paths in their attempts to survive. But, those paths also take them away from life instead of towards it. What does Ida tell us about ways of coping that don’t allow life to go on? “I’m...

Even in the No Exit tragedy that Alzheimer’s is, bits and pieces of that old self still come through. Julianne Moore’s heartbreakingly real performance couldn’t show this more clearly. And, even, as Still Alice poignantly reveals – sometimes something flowers into bloom that wasn’t free to live fully before. A buried part of Alice is found. What makes that possible? Alzheimer’s doesn’t only rob its victims of their minds. It strips away psychological defenses. Words and intellect are Dr. Alice Howland’s life. She also uses them as barriers against feeling – for understandable reasons. Her mother and sister died suddenly and tragically...

Many of us are talking about the timeliness of Selma in light of the tragic events in Ferguson, New York, and Ohio. The gripping message it has for all of us is to effectively garner our anger and fight injustice. Yet, director Ava DuVernay also has a passion for telling women’s stories. And, of course, at the heart of Selma is Coretta Scott King (Carmen Ejogo). Her story reverberates in a powerful subtext. What does it take to be a woman married to a powerful and charismatic man on a mission? Some feel Coretta Scott King’s strengths are not emphasized accurately...

Clint Eastwood’s American Sniper tells the story of parental directives that live on long past childhood just as much it tells the horrors of war and its psychological costs. Chris Kyle can’t be a sheep and he certainly can’t be a wolf preying on the innocent – his dad would kill him for that. But, “finishing” the boy who picked on his brother? That’s what his dad expects: “Good. Then you know your purpose.” His purpose: to be a sheepdog hunting down the enemy. Not a sheep. A sheep is weak. Weakness is not tolerated – not inside Chris Kyle....

  “I don’t want the Raisinettes, I just eat around them” … that’s what Andrew Neiman, Whiplash’s main character, does with the hurts in his life. That’s what he tries to do with jazz teacher Terrance Fletcher’s demeaning and crude sadism in this psychologically riveting film. Fletcher’s cruelty has its hook and he finds it in Andrew’s mother’s abandonment. But, in the end, the complexly selfish motives driving Fletcher’s cruelty do not win out. Or do they? That’s the question Whiplash leaves us with. Yet, there’s another even more important question: how is someone like Terrence Fletcher able to bait Andrew and get...

Why does someone create an illusion of who they are? Wes Anderson, a master of psychological ironies, tells us quite a lot about that subject in The Grand Budapest Hotel. At the center of the film is M. Gustave trying to live as someone he is not. All around him are juxtapositions of barbarism with humanity, slapstick with straight-up serious considerations of loneliness, greed, and the sometimes-desperate need for love. Is M. Gustave immune to these feelings? Or is his carefully worn illusory identity an attempt to cover them up? We all have a story. Sometimes that story is deeply hidden...

Peas versus carrots: thinking versus feeling. Which is the winner? Alan Turing’s mathematical thinking, as The Imitation Game shows, cracked Nazi Germany’s Enigma code during WWII and saved millions. Yet, the same man’s brilliant thinking couldn’t save him. Crippled by terrible psychological fears (far worsened by Britain’s criminalization of homosexuality), his crafty “imitation game” was meant to help him. But, did it? Or did it instead become the one code he couldn’t crack? I’m a psychoanalyst. Solving psychological enigmas is what I do. It’s not uncommon for people to hide feelings or parts of themselves they’re convinced will be rejected. The...