The big question in Josh Kreigman and Elyse Steinberg’s documentary Weiner is: “What’s wrong with Anthony Weiner?” Why would a political official destroy his reputation and his career? Why would he humiliate his wife? Lawrence O’Donnell of MSNBC’s Last Word posed this million-dollar question to Weiner on national TV: “What is wrong with you…I mean psychiatrically?” O’Donnell’s question is exactly what everyone is asking. It’s a complex question about a sadly troubled man. The answers aren’t easily visible. Watching Weiner, we see Anthony Weiner pulled into a vortex of something dark and disturbed in his mind; something he can’t...

LOVE – Is it real? What does it take to make it work? The Netflix series Love by Judd Apatow, Paul Rust, and Leslie Arfin raises some important questions. What takes an attraction farther than a romantic fantasy? What allows two people who’ve been hurt in the past to get beyond the fear of being hurt again? Sometimes we don’t know how to ask these questions. Sometimes we ask them after a relationship fails. Yet, there’s always a next time and it’s never too late to find the answers.In ten episodes, we get to know Gus Cruikshank (Paul Rust) and Mickey...

“I sing because I can experience a lot of feelings…” Janis Joplin had no one to hear her feelings. The most chilling part of Amy Berg’s documentary, Janis: Little Girl Blue, is to witness the cold formality of Mother and Father Joplin. No one could miss Janis’ hunger for love. Less obvious were the roots of that hunger: the trauma of a childhood with impenetrable parents. Dorothy and Seth Joplin, in their uncanny similarity to Grant Wood’s "American Gothic” farmer with pitchfork and wife, were emotionally remote and had no warmth. Neither could hear Janis’ feelings of loneliness and hurt. Janis...

What is lurking below the surface of a highly intellectualized philosophy professor’s emotional control? We find out in Losing Ground, filmed in 1982 but recently released by Milestone Films, noteworthy for being the first feature length film produced and directed by a Black American woman. Kathleen Collins, who died an early death of cancer in 1988, became passionate about film while doing graduate studies in literature in Paris. Collins believed a screenplay is a film essay and wrote Losing Ground with the carefully crafted point of view at the heart of any good piece of writing. Her talent for cinematic...

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...

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...