What are the basic ingredients in Joe Talbot and Jimmie Fails’s The Last Black Man In San Francisco? An old Victorian house. A young man who has no home. A mother who abandoned him and can’t keep him in her heart. A necessary fantasy. A Greek Chorus (that speaks the anger, hate, and under it, the grief).A gentrifying city that is taking everything away. “We don’t own shit,” is the mantra for what’s happening as the Blacks are pushed out of their neighborhoods. But, it’s a mantra that goes even deeper. When your mom left you long ago and you...

Travis Bickle (Robert DeNiro), age 26, is Taxi Driver's lonely, alienated "hero." Yes, he’s a Vietnam War vet, ex-marine, and likely has his share of PTSD. But, his problems stem from something much deeper than war-trauma. He must have suffered some kind of childhood trauma, to be sure. He wouldn’t be so troubled if he hadn’t. His letter to his parents is dutiful, secretive, and distant. He wants something, though; he wants Betsy (Cybil Shepherd), he’s obsessed with her beauty. But, he has no idea what a woman wants or how to date, let alone to have a relationship with...

Summer love on a deserted island isn’t real life. That’s the Gordian knot in Bergman’s 1953 Summer With Monika. This erotic and heartbreaking film tells the story of two adolescents caught in the throes of an idyllic love. It’s a love they both long for, given their troubled and sad early lives. And also an escape from life’s current cruelty and reality; which they can’t ultimately avoid. We all complicate love by what we bring from childhood. Bergman was no different. In his films, he wove an unconscious self-analysis as Barbara Young (2015*) rightly says. So, I think we can easily...

“One sleeps in one’s childhood’s shoes,” Bergman remembers Swedish poet Maria Wine, saying, and “that was the real starting point of Wild Strawberries.” (p. 212*) It’s true. And, some live inside the echoes of a cold mother. Every psychoanalyst knows how our childhoods slumber within each waking and dreaming moment of our lives, creating their repercussions. Like Dr. Isak Borg’s loneliness. A loneliness predicated on the need to stop emotional time; so not to feel anything. As we travel with Isak back to his childhood home, we see the chilling effects of his cold mother (and too many siblings in the...

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...

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...

How do we find someone – the real person hidden inside? The one who’s been hurt/who struggles/who has his dark demons? How do we understand Hart Crane's suicide; the suicide of an otherwise talented, lively, vivacious, and successful young poet? Leo Hurwitz’s penetrating and poetic script and his camera (with the assistance of fellow cameraman Manfred Kirchheimer), follow John Unterecker, Hart Crane’s biographer (the 800 page “Voyager: A Life Of Hart Crane”), through Unterecker’s researches into Hart Crane’s life. In Search of Hart Crane is composed primarily of fascinating interviews with friends of Hart Crane – those who knew both the...

Jon Hamm deserves an Emmy for Don Draper. I agree with Variety’s Debra Birnbaum about that. But, I find it unfortunate that voters would only now consider awarding him that Emmy. As Birnbaum wrote, Hamm likely hasn’t won in the past since “Don Draper … was a cheating husband, a neglectful father, an unapologetic alcoholic … it’s hard to root for someone seemingly so unredeeming.” So now since, at the end of the brilliant Mad Men series, Don Draper apparently finds his “good self” it might be OK? In my opinion, they’ve mistakenly diminished the complex demands on an actor...

We’re left to wonder: what will become of Don Draper (Jon Hamm)? As Coca Cola’s hilltop jingle ends 7 seasons of Mad Men – we have questions that don’t have answers. Has Don changed? Or, is he just the quintessential ad man - a man who escapes into his stories because they’re better than his personal reality? Don’s early trauma has had some devastating effects.  If Don has changed, there’d be some very specific signs. First, though, to understand how he’d change, the crushing effects of his childhood trauma must be highlighted: Don doesn’t trust love He was neglected, abused, and abandoned....

Amy Elliot Dunne is a seriously troubled young woman. Rosamund Pike’s nuanced and chilling performance, in David Fincher’s Gone Girl, does her troubles justice. Yet, can we merely write her off as an unredeemable sociopath? If we follow some clues to what drove her to do what she did - is it even remotely possible to find a bit of sympathy? Clue 1: Traumatic Childhood Trauma comes in many forms. Amy’s trauma is this: she’s never as good as Amazing Amy, her parent’s fictional daughter. “Never as good as.” That’s crushing to a child. Now, she watches for this everywhere. Expecting it. Hiding...