Joshua Oppenheimer’s 2016 Oscar nominated documentary, The Look Of Silence, is a riveting exploration of the Indonesian genocide’s complicated psychological aftermath. In 1965-1967, the military dictatorship killed over a million assumed Communists opposed to their rule. In the film, we follow the Rukun family, centered on 44-year-old Adi, all unable to grieve the brutal murder of son and brother, Ramli. This loss has destroyed their lives. Adi, an optometrist, approaches the killers on the pretext of examining their eyes, trying to make sense of his brother’s death. Facing the past is the only way to break free of a very...

Asif Kapadia’s 2016 Oscar winning Best Documentary, Amy, is a deeply truthful portrayal of the troubled psychological life of 6-time Grammy winner, Amy Winehouse. Amy predicted fame would drive her mad and, in a sense, it did. What the film makes clear to me, as a psychoanalyst, is that her complex fear of losing what she had, whether musical fame or love, was the real problem. We touch the surface of Amy’s fears in these lyrics from What Is It About Men: “my Freudian fate. History repeats itself. It fails to die.” The anxieties rooted in her “Freudian fate” were...

Director Ridley Scott's film, The Martian, tells the story of NASA astronaut Mark Watney’s (Matt Damon) accidental abandonment on the barren planet of Mars. Early childhood abandonment also creates a desolate emotional landscape. People can’t be trusted. Hope is fractured. On Mars, Mark has two things to turn to: the distasteful music of Commander Lewis’ (Jessica Chastain) 1970’s disco classics and his own ingenious tactics of survival. For anyone abandoned, these are serious questions: is clinging to fierce self-sufficiency the answer? Or is human connection that has already failed a too risky music to trust? Abandonment An unexpected and violent dust storm...

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...

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...

“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...

October 2015 is Bullying Prevention Month: Defeat The Inner Bully Lifetime TV UnREAL’s Rachel Goldberg (Shiri Appleby) and Quinn King (Constance Zimmer) are the quintessential bullies. They use, torment, humiliate, tear down, and pit their reality show women contestants against each other for a chance at Everlasting love. Love is the key word here. Because it isn’t love that’s being offered. It’s a trick. The women contestants have sold their souls to do everything and anything to be the one that wins over Adam Cromwell (Freddie Stroma), a rich British playboy. They want to believe everlasting love is possible. The bullies (Rachel and...

What Happened, Miss Simone, Liz Garbus’ documentary of the brilliant and troubled Nina Simone’s life, ends by diagnosing Miss Simone with bipolar disorder. Does that explain her outrageous behavior? I don’t think so. Those with bipolar disorder are taken over by extremes of moods. But, in my experience, there’s much more to being bipolar than that. Each person has an individual history and reasons for their extremes. A diagnostic category just doesn’t cut it as a method for understanding anyone. How do you explain it then? What could possibly make Nina Simone destroy her career and treat her fans (and her...

Steve Jobs, the recently released film, beautifully written and conceived by Aaron Sorkin, and directed by the gifted Danny Boyle, is brilliant and unexpected. A MUST SEE. I saw a screening at the Director’s Guild on Saturday, October 10th. It is without question Best Picture worthy. I can’t give enough accolades to the director and actors who made the film come to life on the screen. But, I really have to say that Aaron Sorkin’s screenplay is the piece de resistance. In the panel afterwards - with Aaron Sorkin, Danny Boyle, Kate Winslett, Seth Rogan, and Jeff Daniels - each gave...

I’m not shocked by much – but UnREAL’S Episode 3, Mother, disturbed me. Rachel’s mother is clearly trouble. And, she’s a psychiatrist. Bad combination. I was left thinking about how deeply mothers affect their children. How mothers can make or break a child’s confidence and psychological stability. We don’t have to wander very far to discover the origins of Rachel’s capacity to use, manipulate, turn against, and tear down the women on UnREAl’s Everlasting; and, just as tragically, herself. Yet, in spite of what seems obvious, there are complicated psychological reasons for why Rachel (Shiri Appleby) does what she does. I’ll...