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

A sentence to shame is worse than having no sanitary pads month after month. Period. End Of Sentence. This film, 2019 Oscar Winner for Best Short Documentary, shows us very clearly that you can’t do much as a girl in rural India if you’re bleeding. But, not only that. When old superstitions and taboos about menstruation prevail, and you’re seen as dirty or cursed; stigmatized and ostracized; it interferes with everything. Especially with hope; school; and being able to "rise and fly." Believe it or not, this is the state of affairs in parts of India in the 21st Century....

Hate breeds self-hate. And, self-hate can make you Quiet. That’s one of the things George Tillman, Jr.’s The Hate U Give makes very clear. And, Amandla Stenberg’s moving performance as Starr Carter makes even clearer just how scary hate and self-hate can be to fight. Especially if people (police, for example) refuse to listen. I’m white and Jewish. I’ve never experienced extreme anti-semitism. So perhaps I’m one of those “privileged whites” Starr comes up against at Williamson School. I can empathize. Take action; and protest. But I don’t know from the inside what it’s like … To be Black; poor; live...

Hanging himself wasn’t Jackson Maine’s fault. Nor was his drinking. Yes, his brother Bobby said to the heartbroken, Ally: “It was Jack; not you; not me; Jack and no one else.” But, that’s because he didn’t understand. And, really, Jackson had the right idea: “A song is only an octave. Twelve notes and it repeats. Over and over forever.” Yet, that’s not only what happens in a song; it’s also in the musical undertones that play inside a life; octaves of the past; singing their haunting song. Only sometimes you can’t hear the words; especially when your trauma is in...

Heartlessness, and what causes it, is the theme in Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther; as far as I can see. More importantly, Black Panther shows us how heartlessness can “create a monster,” in an abandoned child now-man, with his slow-burning hate; vengeful rage; and need for power. And, certainly, we witness what heartlessness has to do with greed and fear. Yes, there’s a lot going on in Black Panther, and a child cast aside, because keeping secrets is more important than his loneliness or need, is at the center of the story. But, let’s go a bit farther. Let’s think about...

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...