Peas versus carrots: thinking versus feeling. Which is the winner? Alan Turing’s mathematical thinking, as The Imitation Game shows, cracked Nazi Germany’s Enigma code during WWII and saved millions. Yet, the same man’s brilliant thinking couldn’t save him. Crippled by terrible psychological fears (far worsened by Britain’s criminalization of homosexuality), his crafty “imitation game” was meant to help him. But, did it? Or did it instead become the one code he couldn’t crack? I’m a psychoanalyst. Solving psychological enigmas is what I do. It’s not uncommon for people to hide feelings or parts of themselves they’re convinced will be rejected. The...

Loneliness comes in many forms. James Marsh’s The Theory of Everything tells a few stories of loneliness – Stephen Hawkings’, Jane Hawkings’, and Jonathan Hellyer Jones’. Jonathan - choir director, family helper, and the man who became Jane’s second husband - captures vividly what can become loneliness’ black hole when he says: “I suffer from the tyranny of an empty room.” Tyranny is a good word for the emotional emptiness that grabs hold and won’t let go. The emptiness that comes from deep losses of various kinds, that settles into your bones and seems never to let up. Sometimes the tyranny of...

Watching Billie Woodruff’s Addicted, I could barely restrain myself from grabbing a tomato and joining my Rotten Tomatoes compadres in throwing it at the screen. The 8% of critics who gave their approval of this psychologically offensive project must have been feeling particularly generous that day. What could have been a sensitive and even insightful look at a woman struggling through the throes of sexual addiction was instead a misguided mess that—not withstanding the cast of beautiful actors who appear in various stages of undress throughout—was often difficult to watch. I’m not usually one to have such extreme reactions to a film, but I was squirming...

MY OLD LADY Film Review — The way any one of us lives with the past is a complicated thing. My Old Lady, a deeply psychological and sometimes shockingly honest film written and directed by Israel Horovitz, takes us layer upon layer into the kinds of deeply wrought emotional problems living with a difficult past can bring. Matthias Gold (Kevin Kline) lives with his past misdirected in self-hate. Matthilde Girard (Maggie Smith) lives with hers in denial. Chloe Girard (Kristin Scott Thomas), Matthilde’s daughter, is coldly shut down. The past, as My Old Lady shows us, lives in all of us unconsciously. My Old Lady is Matthias Gold’s...

LOVE IS STRANGE — Ben (John Lithgow) and George’s (Alfred Molina) relationship, in Ira Sach’s virtuoso film, Love Is Strange, celebrates the best of love. Love can bring many things – happiness, joy and companionship, yes. But, also, conflict, mismatch, disappointment, hurt, and loss.  The specialness of Love Is Strange is how this film gives us an open window into just what adult grown-up healthy love is all about. The central theme in Love Is Strange is, of course, love. The film is also about discrimination and the stresses and strains on a family when a family member is in crisis. At its heart, though, Love Is Strange is, purely...

Boyhood, Richard Linklater’s beautiful new film, is so compellingly real it’s easy to forget we aren’t watching a 12-year documentary of an actual family. With deft cinematic strokes, Linklater melds one phase of this family’s life, and Mason’s (Ellar Coltrane) journey through adolescence from ages 6 - 18, seamlessly into the next. Yet, Linklater’s interest in realities underscores the fact that life is anything but seamless - a pretty harsh and at times discouraging truth. But, the director also gives us a not-insignificant take-away gift voiced by Mason Sr. (Ethan Hawke), to his son: “What’s the point? Point is –...

Robin Williams’ heartbreaking suicide brings depression and suicide to the forefront of everyone’s mind, along with remembrances of his many film roles. Ironically, Williams won his only Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor in 1998 for his emotional performance as Sean Maguire, a gifted, underachieving therapist who’s challenged to reach an intellectually brilliant, yet deeply troubled young man in Good Will Hunting.  In real life, Williams’s decision to end his life leaves many unanswered questions as to why he was unable to get the kind of help he needed to go on. In the film, Sean’s treatment of Will Hunting (Matt Damon)...

  12 YEARS A SLAVE — Some people need someone to hate. In Jean Paul Sartre’s essay, “Anti-Semite and Jew,” he says: “If the Jew did not exist, the anti-Semite would invent him.” I don’t think it’s a far leap to put the history of Blacks in America in the same category. The important question is why? Why does this need to have someone to hate (or someone to control and use for one’s own psychological purposes) operate more intensely in some people? Like in Edwin Epps, the vicious slave master (Michael Fassbender), in Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave. The true story of Solomon...

HER — Spike Jonze is interested in loneliness. His new film, Her, is a semi-futuristic exploration of one lonely man’s struggle to learn what love is and what love is not. Here’s what we know about Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix). He has a broken heart. His marriage to Catherine has come to a devastatingly sad end. At BeautifulHandwrittenLetters.com, he writes heartfelt, warm, romantic letters; to other people’s loves. The feelings he puts in the letters mean nothing to him. He’s afraid to open his heart again. Why is he so scared? Having his wife leave him doesn’t help. But, where else might...

FEB 28, 2014 — Characters on the Couch founder, Dr. Sandra Cohen, appeared on today’s News Nation with Tamron Hall to discuss the 2014 Oscar Best Picture film nominees, American Hustle, Captain Phillips, Dallas Buyers Club, Gravity, Her, Nebraska, Philomena, 12 Years a Slave, and The Wolf of Wall Street....