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

Spain’s heart was breaking. It was 1936 and the telephone woke Leo Hurwitz from a deep sleep. He heard a friend’s voice on the other end of the receiver asking for help making a film with footage he’d just brought back from Spain. The Spanish Civil War was in full swing. As Leo tells it, the footage was jerky and primitive, with short shots. His friend was a still photographer with an idea: making a film about the blood transfusion institute of Dr. Norman Bethune from Canada providing blood for the wounded. To Leo, that wasn’t enough. There was no question...

Loneliness is a silent world. That world is the world Ben (Oakes Fegley), Rose (Millicent Simmonds), and Jamie (Jaden Michael) inhabit in Todd Haynes’ gorgeously filmed and sensitively rendered half-period piece, half-silent and all-around beautifully woven film Wonderstruck. Haynes draws on the visual; on images that speak louder than words, to tell the story of these children – Rose from an era 50 years before the 1977 story of Ben and Jamie. All three are searching for answers, for belonging, for someone to hear them, in a strangely confusing world of loss. What Ben, Rose, and Jamie find is more...

Leo Hurwitz was a pioneer in the development of documentary film in America, but he wasn’t the only pioneer in the Hurwitz family. His older sisters Rosetta (Rose) and Marie were pioneers in bringing child psychoanalysis to the United States. They were among the first child analysts to train with Anna Freud in Vienna in the mid-1920s and, on return to New York City; they were the first child analysts in America. Yet, because of the controversy over lay analysts in this country, Marie and Rose’s significant role in the history of child analysis is largely unrecognized. This is my...

The Big Sick, Emily V. Gordon and Kumail Nanjiani’s touching, sad, scary, and deeply heart-warming romantic comedy tells us a lot about those old rules you live by. They’re not so easy to break. They turn into “should-s,” they carry guilt; they make you scared. And, they confuse you, particularly when it comes to trying to figure out what you can have and even what you want. Worse, what if choosing what you want means losing someone you love? What if there is more than one loss on the table – which loss is the one that wins? The Expected And...

 “Leo Hurwitz's task in life: creating and practicing the documentary film tied intrinsically to the quest for human freedom, liberation, equality, and truth.” Tom Hurwitz, Leo’s son. In 1926, Leo went to Harvard. This was quite an achievement for the Jewish son of working class immigrants, yet remarkably in line with the family’s intrinsic belief in equality. Leo’s unusual intelligence and literary interests didn’t escape his sister Eleanor’s fiancé, Paul Anderson, in his own last year at Harvard. Leo had inherited his father, Solomon’s, passion for ideas and his mother, Eva’s, creativity. At New Utretch High School, he was editor-in-chief of the...

Baby (Ansel Elgort) wants to change, but … stop running? That’s easier said than done. Especially if you’re a sweet, loving, sensitive kid (that’s Baby in Edgar Wright’s Baby Driver), whose cruel dad is responsible for your mom dying as you sit helplessly watching. What do you do with those terrifying memories? You grow up and you drive fast; blocking out the constant reminders that ring in your head with the sweet music (or any music) of that mom you lost. You drive; better than most people; better than your mom could, since she couldn’t avoid that one fatal accident....

Memories and fantasies originating in childhood influence the course of a life as it unfolds. So do childhood experiences. If someone has a strong creative spirit, as Leo Hurwitz did, these impressionable early times find powerful forms of expression in their creative work. This is certainly true for Leo. Leo’s films speak for those abandoned by the societies they live in and for those who have no voice. We already know Leo’s family of origin had a strong social conscience. Yet, what are some of the personal, early, even unconscious sources leading to Leo’s passion? Thanks to direct quotes from family...

PTSD always follows trauma. No traumatized person is “strong” enough to escape it. Yet, for complicated reasons, Post Traumatic Stress symptoms are too frequently off everyone’s radar, particularly the radar of the one suffering. The reasons are both straight out of the DSM-V and very individual. Jeff Bauman’s story in David Gordon Green’s powerful new film, Stronger, with Jake Gyllenhaal’s deeply moving performance as Jeff and Tatiana Maslany’s complex and engagingly real portrayal of his girlfriend, Erin Hurley, is a good place to start understanding what happens after trauma. ...

Leo Hurwitz (1909 – 1991), pioneer documentary filmmaker, was part of a small group who founded America’s documentary film and invented the social documentary form. According to his son, Tom Hurwitz, Leo’s films “exemplified a new way of making films about the real world, and about ideas that help us to understand it. He and his group saw these films as an antidote to the films of Hollywood that gave the audience dreams of escape.” Leo’s films spoke to various human rights concerns; problems he became aware of, early in his life, growing up in his socially conscious family. Leo...

The environment? Really? Narcissism is more like it. I’m sorry, Darren Aronofsky. I wouldn’t in a million years think Jennifer Lawrence’s character in Mother! is supposed to be Mother Earth if I hadn’t read an interview with you. But, even so, she isn’t exactly an earthy type of woman bountifully giving to everyone and then having her loving nature plundered and destroyed. She’s much more a naïve, undeveloped, easily replaced, beleaguered young wife trying to be good enough and self-sufficient; at the mercy of the self-obsessed poet/writer (Javier Bardem) she’s married to. Let’s not forget, we as the audience are watching the...