Where does Wind River’s Jane Banner, FBI Agent, (Elizabeth Olson) fit into the mix of marginalized Native Americans and a white Game Tracker (Jeremy Renner) with a significant loss of his own? And, who was she anyway, coming out of nowhere in all her conspicuously dissimilar blonde beauty? We never really know. The film, with all its poignancy, sadness, and brutality left me with this one big question (one I thought would be answered, but wasn’t): If Jane Banner was so passionate in her desire to find the killer, what happened in her own history to make that so? What...

Director Jean-Marc Vallee’s film, Demolition, stars Jake Gyllenhaal as Davis Mitchell, a man who tragically loses his wife in a sudden car accident. If you haven’t seen the film, Demolition is a must watch to understand the subtleties of this post and, more so, the intricacies of Davis’ reaction. This is a film about a man’s difficulty feeling grief and what it takes for him to finally get there. Clearly – Davis has a troubled response to the loss of his wife, Julia (Heather Lind). He feels nothing. He tells the doctor he’s numb and, in his daydream, his diagnosis is...

Joshua Oppenheimer’s 2016 Oscar nominated documentary, The Look Of Silence, is a riveting exploration of the Indonesian genocide’s complicated psychological aftermath. In 1965-1967, the military dictatorship killed over a million assumed Communists opposed to their rule. In the film, we follow the Rukun family, centered on 44-year-old Adi, all unable to grieve the brutal murder of son and brother, Ramli. This loss has destroyed their lives. Adi, an optometrist, approaches the killers on the pretext of examining their eyes, trying to make sense of his brother’s death. Facing the past is the only way to break free of a very...

As much as I loved Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Birdman, I can’t say I felt the same about The Revenant. I know the film won big at the Golden Globes and has received Oscar nods for Best Picture and Best Actor. Perhaps that’s because a fantasy lives deep inside us about exacting revenge where we believe revenge is due. Still, spending close to 3 hours watching the agonies of a man who’s brutally mauled by a bear, who can’t catch a break, is left to die by supposed friends, and has to endure one gruesome circumstance after another became almost unbearably tedious. Yet,...

M. Night Shyamalan’s new psychological horror film, The Visit, has twists and turns and unexpected surprises that I wouldn’t think of revealing. Of course, this film has one of Shyamalan’s shock endings – it wouldn’t be a Shyamalan film without it. But for me as a psychoanalyst, there’s something else of more interest. What this film’s characters tell us about the ability or inability to work out the sometimes very scary feelings of loss and guilt. In The Visit, we have a family – a Mom (Kathryn Hahn), a 15-year-old daughter, Becca (Olivia DeJonge), and a 13-year-old son, Tyler (Ed Oxenbould)...

I’ve been rooting for Jon Hamm. As a Mad Men enthusiast and psychoanalyst, I’ve written a number of pieces on the effects of Don Draper’s early trauma. Not only that, I’ve long-admired the way Hamm brings Don’s very real struggles to life. Little did I know that his own early history, in some critical ways, mirrors Don’s.  At least as far as losing a mother at a young age goes, and then being orphaned at 20.  Jon, too, was hit with difficult early losses. Working with actors in my practice, I know how hard it is to enter into and come...

I just watched the trailer for Jake Gyllenhaal's upcoming 2016 film, Demolition, about the aftermath of his character, Davis’s, sudden loss of his wife, Julia. Loss can take many forms. As the trailer shows, Davis unravels. He can’t pull himself together. His father-in-law tries to encourage him to rebuild his life. To do so, he demolishes the house he lived in with his wife – in an attempt to move past his old life and go on.  Grieving really doesn’t work well that way. It’s an interesting premise. Yet, as a psychologist who works with grief, I can’t agree that dealing...

Loss can be a dead place. If you move forward, you’ll know the person you love is gone. As I sat spell bound in the Majestic Theater watching the brilliant performances of James Barbour as Phantom and Julia Udine as Christine Daad, I knew that The Phantom Of The Opera isn’t only the story of a bitter, jealous, love-starved freak that believes he can only get love by possession and threat. At a much deeper level, it’s the story of an orphaned girl in the grips of a phantom father. A father she can’t grieve. When a loved one dies, mourning...

We’re all still talking about Mad Men. And, yes, I agree - the characters often hit close to home with many of life’s painful realities. Yet, I have to say that the tongue in cheek jingle at Mad Men’s finale was a bit too disturbing. Leaving Sally (Kiernan Shipka) doing dishes in the kitchen with a dying mother and no father walking through the door is almost unbearably sad. We’re faced with the fact that one cry, a few encounter groups in an Esalen kind of therapy, just aren't enough to change the effects of Don's (Jon Hamm) traumatic childhood. His children are left to repeat...

Mad Men’s finale takes Don Draper (Jon Hamm) to the ultimate darkness of the soul, only to end up … Where? It seems a tragic cosmic joke to leave the Draper – Francis family the only ones with loose ends. Don might be back on his game, conjuring up the world’s greatest Coca Cola ad. But, why would he write a jingle about the real thing instead of doing it? It starts with two very difficult phone calls. First, Don talks to Sally (Kiernan Shipka). He’s jolted back into reality when convinced Betty’s (January Jones) dying of lung cancer: “What?! I’m...