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

Bohemian Rhapsody tells Freddie Mercury’s story. But, not just the story of his ascent, decline, and resurrection at the Live Aid concert in 1985. Bohemian Rhapsody is much more the story of someone (anyone) who distrusts love; and who believes “going solo” and not needing anyone is the answer. It’s not. And, Freddie Mercury in Bohemian Rhapsody shows us why. We watch Freddie’s struggle, trying to manage doubts about love; by trying to find a likable self in the eyes of his audiences. And, when the glow of those eyes; that applause; their awe is gone; falls into an abyss...

Grief is a complex thing. Each of us grieves in our own way and for our own reasons. Alfonso Cuaron’s  sensitive and compelling Roma, tells the story of Cleo, a domestic employee and her employer, Ms. Sofia. We follow two very different women linked together in parallel universes of betrayal and loss. Two women with polar opposite reactions to grief. Grief brings turmoil; in its crashing waves or subtle surges; threatening to pull us down like the sea’s dangerous undertow. Grief’s eruptions aren't easy to manage. And, there are various ways grief is either felt, faced; or is not. Cleo...

What makes someone greedy; heartless; manipulative; and corrupt? So hungry for power that anything goes; even law; morality; & a daughter? Adam McCay’s Vice doesn’t answer questions of what or why. Vice tells the story of who and how. Yet, let’s for a moment think about Dick and Lynne Cheney as two parts of one person’s mind. I can show you how childhood trauma creates a tyrannical mental bully; waiting to steal every bit of power it can. “He did it like a ghost,” the film’s narrator tells us. And, that’s how a mental tyrant invisibly takes over when, watching...

Peter Farrelly’s The Green Book poses a challenging question: what could 2 unlikely road companions possibly have to teach each other? A lot, we find … even about friendship and love. But, with all their obvious differences, it’s an emotionally rocky road trip to get there. One of the 2 is Dr. Donald Shirley, a classically trained sought after Black pianist, isolated in his castle on top of Carnegie Hall. A lonely man with 3 doctorates; who had to sell out (& play pop instead of Chopin) to get to the top of anyone’s list. The other, Tony Lip, a...

Richard Curtis' 2003 film classic, Love Actually, is the ultimate Christmas ROM-COM. I watched it again this holiday. And with Christmas not far behind us, I'm still thinking about how much this film says about love. After all, Christmas is the season of love, romance and family. But, what if love isn’t working or runs into its inevitable stumbling blocks? Worse, what if you can’t find love and you’ve just spent another lonely holiday? It’s no secret that family (and family history) can get in the way of making love work. Childhood trauma makes it even harder. How do you get through the...

The historical jury is out as to whether Queen Anne of England (1702 -1714) and her two ladies were actual lovers. Yet, sex makes for a good story; and sex wields power - in both what it has to offer and withhold. Envy, though, is the real name of the sexual game at the center of The Favourite. Envy brandishes a potent weapon; lurking as it does in the subterranean trenches of those complex relationships between Queen Anne (Olivia Colman) and Sarah (Rachel Weisz), her first lady, confidante, and maybe lover - and Abigail (Emma Stone), Sarah’s younger cousin and...

Debra Granik’s Leave No Trace is a story about trauma and distrust. That might not be the most obvious thing in this compelling film about a Vietnam Vet and his 13-year-old daughter who live in hiding in a park forest outside Portland, Oregon. But for me, as a psychoanalyst, it is the film’s heart. Will (Ben Foster) has PTSD from a war we should never have fought. He’s witnessed killing. His wife died long ago. We can well imagine there is much more to the story of Will’s life. People have shattered his trust. We see the results. His daughter,...

Peter Zvi Malkin’s Holocaust trauma worked in his favor to capture Adolf Eichmann, Hitler’s Chief Executioner; Head of the SS Office of Jewish Affairs and the Architect of the Final Solution. At least that’s the Hollywood version of the story. It makes sense as PTSD goes. And, although Chris Weitz’ Operation Finale invented the dialogue between Malkin and Eichmann for dramatic purposes, it wouldn’t be too far fetched to believe that some of it might have been going on either in Malkin’s mind or in his unconscious. After all, wouldn’t it make sense that the personal nightmare and rage he...

It’s frightening how quickly freedom can disappear. We have to watch out for those complicated forces, in the outside world and living inside us, that want to deceive us if we aren’t aware. Cabaret is a powerful and disturbing illustration, plus a startling reminder, of the various ways these dangers lurk. Over Labor Day weekend, I saw a remarkable performance of Cabaret at the Celebration Theater at The Lex in Hollywood. Director Michael Matthews’ version of this well known and loved musical crosses all conceivable boundaries; anything goes. And, then, it doesn’t. If you’ve seen Cabaret, you know the play takes place...

Jon Chu’s Crazy Rich Asians is about crazy wealth. But it’s really about so much more. It’s about the clashes between old money and new; between privilege and disadvantage; between American born Asians and those calling Asia home; between following passion and giving into duty. Mostly it's about a boyfriend's mother's envy. And, at the film’s center we find this conflict between a traditional Singaporean mother and her son’s Asian American girlfriend. At an even deeper level, Crazy Rich Asians is really about two different parts of that mother battling against each other. The Girlfriend Rachel Chu (Constance Wu) is the youngest...