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

“I’m Ok. I’m Not Ok. It Just Is” (Is it?) You try to reassure yourself, but you can’t. Then you try to accept it. Whatever it is. In Amy Seimetz’s She Dies Tomorrow, that it is death. But, why tomorrow? Why is Amy’s (the character’s) conviction so unshakable? And contagious? Sure, we have the pandemic to contend with. That invisible predator that haunts us all, unless we’re in the business of denying it. But if we look more closely at the players in this psychological horror film – we’d have to say the real culprit is loss. The question is: what...

Feel trapped in the quarantine of COVID-19? That’s why you should watch Shawshank Redemption more today than ever. Yes, I mean today, because quarantine can seem just as much a prison sentence, like 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, don’t think it’s dangerous to hope. It’s not. Hope is a necessary thing. It’s what breaks through those bars of despair. So. If you haven’t watched Shawshank Redemption lately, do....

We all need friends. Like Gordie and Chris in Rob Reiner's 1986 film classic Stand by Me. Especially now. When the new fears of COVID-19 layer on top of old traumas, worries, and sadness – and can make them prey upon you like the gang of teenage bullies in the film. Won’t leave you alone. Until you find a way to safely feel them. Face them. A friend helps. Especially in a world that seems an unending place of sorrow. When it’s hard to see a way out. Then, it’s good to have a reminder that there is someone, or...

What gets you stuck in a time loop? A freak of quantum physics? The self-quarantine of COVID-19 in which one day seems like the last (or the next)? Or, could it be the cynical self-protective bubble that loss and fear of love creates? Palm Springs, Max Barbakow and Andy Siara’s endearingly creative, intelligent, sensitive, and hopeful film tells us all about this bubble, in the story of Sarah and Nyles; an unlikely yet perfectly matched pair. They find themselves at Sarah’s sister’s wedding. Day after day after day. Sarah because she followed Nyles into that cave, even though he told...

This piece on Hamilton was originally written for and published on YourTango.com. What can turn infidelity around? What does "I'm not throwing away my shot" have to do with infidelity in marriage? You’d be surprised. There’s a lesson in it, to be sure. In fact, the Tony-award-winning musical Hamilton holds many lessons on infidelity. To start, we have a need for power, the past, and old hungers. If you’ve had a painful past, the side-effects likely won’t let you free — no matter how hard you try. So, what do you do with the pain? You cling to any form of "power" you can find over...

The world is filled with too much hate. This piece is in honor of Black Lives Matter. Dedicated to those who've spent their lives, like Starr Carter in The Hate U Give, having to hide, needing to code-switch to play it safe (as discussed on NPR's Code Switch). George Tillman, Jr’s compellingly forceful film offers us a very important set of remedies: Speak Out. Don't Be Quiet. Don't Be Afraid To Speak Truth To Power. I’ve re-posted this piece in support of those who are now actively standing up against racism in the form of police brutality. I’m joining those...

Arthur Fleck is Joker. That’s the name of Todd Phillips’s 2019 film and Joaquin Phoenix’s well-deserved Best Actor Oscar-winning character. Arthur must be a Joker, a self-made stand-up comedian. He must laugh, even though his heart is breaking. And, being a comedian is the best way to keep laughing. Isn’t that right …? No, he’s not successful at it. But, laughing is a must - for complicated reasons that unfold as this disturbing film escalates to a confusing and shattering end. Confusion about what’s real and not, what’s funny and isn’t - is where Arthur lives. Joker says it clearly:...

We see the trauma. And, we witness the friendship and love. I’m talking about Sam Mendes’s more-than-war film, 1917. I’m also talking about a different kind of war that all of us are fighting now. A war with an invisible virus. COVID-19. And, just as in 1917, it’s love for each other; our fellow warriors in cities and across the globe; friends and family - yes, it’s love and determination to fight and not give up that will get us through. So, let’s take Blake and especially Schofield’s 1917 journey to heart. See what we can learn from it. And,...

When you’re a scared little boy in the middle of a war and your father’s missing, Adolf Hitler can become your best friend. That is, in your mind at least. And, why not? He’s the man with the most power in all of Germany. What better friend to help you stand up to your fears? Or is he? Taika Waititi’s radiantly hopeful Jojo Rabbit shows us what makes a little boy fall for propaganda - and just why he needs Hitler as his imaginary friend. Yet, it’s complicated, isn’t it? Because when he begins to question his own convictions, that...

Does Frank Sheeran really have no conscience? How can a man kill with no compunction -  and not feel anything? In Martin Scorsese’s engagingly (and not too long), fictionalized film, The Irishman, we watch Frank as he moves up the ladder of The International Brotherhood of Teamsters. With just a little help from his friends. The mob, especially Russell Bufalino, figures greatly in his success. And, also, in making Frank the hitman he is. Fear is a part of it. And, his belief that this is what he has to do to keep his family safe. But, when he must...