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

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...

“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...

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...