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

Why return to the same place over and over? It’s healing. How? Craig Foster says it best in his moving, life-altering, love-story, My Octopus Teacher: “That’s when you see the subtle differences. That’s when you get to know the wild.” It’s true, too, of going through a wildly tumultuous emotional time, not so different than the Cape of Storms where My Octopus Teacher takes place. The more you go deep inside, over and over, to look at the tangled underwater terrain of your feelings, the more you see the nuances that can set you free. This is what psychoanalysis does....

Jordan Peele’s brilliantly conceived film, Get Out, does its job of shattering the myth that we're living in a post-racial America. My great uncle, Leo Hurwitz’s film, Strange Victory, did the same in 1948 after we won the war against Hitler but came home to racism here. It’s now 72 years later and there’s still too much to be scared of. Peele tells us he made Get Out to face his fears, mostly of: “Human beings. What people can do in conjunction with other people is exponentially worse than what they can do alone. Society is the scariest monster.” Yes....

Holidays are getting close and they’re complicated enough without COVID-19. Now you have to think twice (or, at least for different reasons) whether you can risk going Home for The Holidays. The usual question is: Do you want to go home to family, with all the quirks, neuroses, and old sibling warfare that Jodie Foster’s 1995 film lays bare in its anxiety-ridden yet comedic ways? But what if you can’t go home and you need the love that’s there too, even if it sometimes drives you crazy? We all need a happy ending right now. Home for The Holidays has...

In a dictatorship, human hearts don't matter. Leo Hurwitz shows this frightening reality in his powerful film, Heart of Spain 1937. America is now in a fight similar to that of Spain's democratically elected republic against fascist General Francisco Franco. We fight against Trump's self-serving and cruel inhumanity in a deadly pandemic. And, we need a conduit of empathy similar to Dr. Norman Bethane's blood transfusions to soldiers in 1936 Spain. [Click here to watch Heart of Spain.] Spain’s heart was breaking. It was 1936 and the telephone woke Leo Hurwitz from a deep sleep. He heard a friend’s voice on the other...

Leo Hurwitz’s powerful 1948 WWII documentary, with its ironic title Strange Victory, is just as timely today as it was then because the film explores the inescapable question: “If we won, why do we look as if we lost? And, if Hitler died, why does his voice still pursue us through the spaces of America’s life?” It is a very strange victory - when we successfully fought the violent effects of discrimination and persecution in Germany but came home to open expressions of hate in our own country. That hate is still here, as virulently as before, in 2020. Why...

Let's remember the dangers of fascism. Forgetting is a very threatening thing. And, Leo Hurwitz’s The Museum and The Fury 1956 shows us why. Yet we do forget when we don’t want to see what exists on our own soil. Leo’s other film Strange Victory (1948) details the seeds for fascism in America: racism, antisemitism, and White Supremacy. When we can’t call it what it is, history repeats itself. The Museum and The Fury 1956 offers the best reason for not forgetting: “History is the echo of an angry scream.” That echo is now, in 2020. We must stop it....

A narcissistic mother uses her children. She controls them, starves them of love. In John Frankenheimer’s The Manchurian Candidate (1962), that’s Eleanor Shaw Iselin, Mother of lead character Raymond Shaw. Raymond is deeply convinced: “I’m not lovable.” No wonder he has enough hate to be brainwashed to kill. “Yes, Mother,” “Yes, Ma’am, and “Yes, Sir” govern his responses. And, so he becomes his power-hungry Mother’s Russian pawn. We know foreign powers infiltrate elections. We might even say Trump was The Manchurian Candidate in 2016. But how does a power-hungry mother infiltrate a love-starved child’s mind? If the child does anything else...

Do you feel like poor Phil Connors (Bill Murray) - stuck repeating the same day over and over again? COVID-19 quarantine can do that. It’s been 27 years since Harold Ramis’ Groundhog Day hit the theaters for the first time. But 6 months probably feels long enough. If you've been ruminating about your love life or caught in a pessimistic time-loop, you can learn a thing or two from this Pittsburg weatherman’s very, very bad rut; the rut of a closed down, negative, glass-half-empty (let’s add, scared of love) state of mind. He stays in that rut until Rita Hanson...

Children need secure love. Not broken promises. Or, betrayal. Especially not abuse. When that happens to you, you build hard walls around yourself. Shut down to love. Not believing it’s there. That’s Femi. Small boy, turned teenager in Shola Amoo’s powerful, semi-autobiographical, The Last Tree. And, when “going tough” means turning against needing anyone, that has dire consequences. Mostly because you end up abandoning who you are. The real you. The one that cares. If you’re lucky, the people who hurt you, almost beyond turning back, say “I’m sorry.” That goes a long way to finding the real self you...

Watching Autumn’s cautious troubled face in the quietness of Never Rarely Sometimes Always draws us into the dark shattered life of a traumatized girl. If she’d let us in. Autumn lives behind walls. Alone. Vigilant. Angry. Always afraid. Can’t allow help: “I’ve got it.” People aren’t to be trusted. That she’s learned. If you think Eliza Hittman’s captivating film is only about teenage pregnancy and abortion, that’s not the whole story. By far. Never Rarely Sometimes Always reveals a world of secrets and terror. Of sexual abuse. A lonely world with no one to reach inside the pain. Or is...