Dr. Sandra Cohen, a Beverly Hills psychoanalyst, writes about your favorite film, TV, and book characters
and their real human problems.

Cassie lost her very best friend (and only true soulmate) to suicide. Why? A violent and repeated rape seriously traumatized Nina and she couldn't go on. And, no one listened. No one saw the rape as rape and no one blamed the rapist. It makes sense, doesn't it, that Cassie can now think of nothing else but getting revenge for Nina's rape and death? Yes, Cassie, in Emerald Fennell’s brilliantly disturbing and evocative Promising Young Woman, shows us just where trauma-driven obsession takes you. It’s not pretty or healing. In fact, Cassie's obsession is another kind of suicide. Here’s why...

Ruben has been on the run for a long time. No one becomes a heroin addict unless there’s something too painful inside for him to stop, for even a moment, to hear (or feel). So, Ruben runs – with drugs, frantic hard metal drumming, and in his desperate love for his singer-girlfriend, Lou (Olivia Cooke). Darius Marder’s Sound of Metal, with Riz Ahmed in the lead role, takes us on a journey like no other; the journey of a man who’s faced with finding the silence inside, a silence that might take him to his real self, if he can...

The brilliance, and terror, of Florian Zeller’s The Father, is that we’re living inside the mind of an aging man losing his identity to Dementia. To watch it from the outside is bad enough. I know. I was that daughter too. But to be the one losing his grip on who he was is truly heartbreaking. Reality’s blurred, time’s not static, past and present are mixed up with each other, and people are not who they seem; confused with memory, fantasy, and warring parts of The Father, himself. Florian Zeller is a keen observer of a devastating disease that no...

The horror of Bobby Seale’s gagging by Judge Julius Hoffman in Aaron Sorkin’s timely film, The Trial of the Chicago 7 is an image of what Black Lives Matter is fighting against. It’s an image of how being silenced provokes rage. The history and trial speak for themselves. But, as a psychoanalyst, I can talk about how personal historical forces in your mind sometimes create violent opposition to speaking out, thinking for yourself, and being who you are. You, any of us, can feel we’re “on trial” for our thoughts if we go against what we’ve been taught we “should”...

Loss can feel like a nowhere land of moving aimlessly from feeling to feeling, place to place, inside your mind. You’ve lost the home you know, with a person that you love. There’s sadness, anger, memories – as you grapple with the challenges of an uprooted life. Chloé Zhao’s Best Picture nominee, Nomadland, takes us there, with Frances McDormand’s Fern leading the way through the open expanses of loss. Loss is a journey, not unlike the one Fern takes in her trusty van, Vanguard. And, in the film’s hopeful story of Fern and other nomads she meets, what do we...

Herman Mankiewicz was a tragic figure - in 1940’s Hollywood and in David Fincher’s film, Mank. Sure, Mank stood up for what was right and against what was wrong at MGM and in the political world of the times. He had his principles, expressed too often in self-destructive ways. He was equally hurtful towards those who loved him. In fact, he turned away from love as he drank himself to death. Why couldn’t Mank get out of his “self-created trap?” Why does such a talented man not love himself? Mank's Self-Doubt Raging Inside “Why do you love me?” Mank (Gary Oldman) repeatedly...

When attachments go wrong in early life, you have to toughen up. But is feeling nothing "The Way?" If you thought it was, what does it take to break free and allow love? This was the question for Anakin Skywalker in Star Wars and it’s the question for Mando, The Mandalorian, who also lost his beloved parents when he was a small child: Is love safe? Love isn’t safe when your early attachments go wrong. And Jon Favreau’s continuation of the Star Wars saga in his Disney+ series, The Mandalorian, tells this story once again. Yet, the series leaves us having to question if feelings like...

Feeling trapped in the quarantine of COVID-19? That’s why you should watch Shawshank Redemption more today than ever. Yes, I mean today, January 20, 2021, the day of the Inauguration, and all the days ahead. Because this virus has seemed like a prison sentence, as much as the one Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins) and Ellis Boyd 'Red' Redding (Morgan Freeman) found themselves in at Shawshank prison. Especially Andy, as innocent of any wrong-doing as we are. Even if you see no clear way out (but perhaps there is one now), don’t think it’s dangerous to hope. It’s not. Hope is...

The Queen's Gambit is a tale of chess and childhood tragedy. This riveting series shows us clearly that when traumatized children try to survive adulthood, they may have questionable ways of coping. But there's a big difference in how these children survive and the ways that actually help them. It’s important to know that difference. Beth Harmon from Netflix's The Queen’s Gambit learned how to cope. And no, drugs weren’t the answer. Read Article (Written for and published on YourTango.com)...

Are you having trouble making love work? If you can’t seem to go with the flow in your relationships, Chuck Lorre’s two-season Netflix series The Kominsky Method offers some lessons in love that can help. These love lessons have two basic rules, so here's where you begin: 1. be totally present, and 2. pay close attention to the person in front of you. That’s The Kominsky Method, in a nutshell. Is it easy? No. But with some effort, you can learn these lessons and improve your relationships for the better. Fears about love are universal. (Written exclusively for YourTango.com. Read...