Where does Wind River’s Jane Banner, FBI Agent, (Elizabeth Olson) fit into the mix of marginalized Native Americans and a white Game Tracker (Jeremy Renner) with a significant loss of his own? And, who was she anyway, coming out of nowhere in all her conspicuously dissimilar blonde beauty? We never really know. The film, with all its poignancy, sadness, and brutality left me with this one big question (one I thought would be answered, but wasn’t): If Jane Banner was so passionate in her desire to find the killer, what happened in her own history to make that so? What...

Director Jean-Marc Vallee’s film, Demolition, stars Jake Gyllenhaal as Davis Mitchell, a man who tragically loses his wife in a sudden car accident. If you haven’t seen the film, Demolition is a must watch to understand the subtleties of this post and, more so, the intricacies of Davis’ reaction. This is a film about a man’s difficulty feeling grief and what it takes for him to finally get there. Clearly – Davis has a troubled response to the loss of his wife, Julia (Heather Lind). He feels nothing. He tells the doctor he’s numb and, in his daydream, his diagnosis is...

Trauma. We know it. We experience it. We're left with its aftermath - when Director Paul Verhoeven's "noir thriller," Elle, careens to its conclusion. Leaving the theater, my mind was spinning.  As Verhoeven says, the film has: "an enormous amount of ambiguity, gaps that are in the narrative on purpose for the audience to fill in.” He didn’t want to fill them in: “in a Freudian way.” As far as I'm concerned, the film is much too disturbing to be left without an understanding of exactly what transpired on the screen. That’s what I’m here to do. Elle begins with a brutal rape....

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...

“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...

Carol, directed by Todd Haynes, starring Cate Blanchett as Carol and Rooney Mara as Therese, is a story of love. More deeply, though, Carol is a story about why we’re drawn to love a certain person. In each attraction, something missing is sensed and desired in the other. Love can bring us to ourselves in a way nothing else can - if we’re open to both the questions and the answers. Carol, then, is more Therese’s story than Carol’s. Who is Carol to Therese, a Carol that looms as large in Therese’s mind as the one word title of this film? Hard Questions To grow into...

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...

I am a psychoanalyst who loves my work. I am also intrigued by what the characters in film can tell us about real human problems. This season, I've closely watched and written about all the Best Picture Nominees. I've also written pieces on several of the nominated documentaries and some of the films with nominated actors and actresses. In my pieces, I've covered themes including the following: bulimia, divided selves, the dynamics of fear, how integrity can triumph over fear, humanizing revenge, homesickness, the dangers of living in a psycological bubble, what happens to a baby who isn't loved, being love-starved, depression and mental tyrants, breaking the secrecy surrounding sexual abuse,...