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...

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...

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....

Life In Space Is Impossible GRAVITY — What kind of beautiful and terrifying space doesGravity tell us about? The vast reaches of outer space, to be sure. Alfonso Cuaron’s film, Gravity, is a cinematographically beautiful cliffhanger of a space odyssey. Yet, there is a compelling psychological subtext: the gravity of Dr. Ryan Stone’s unresolved grief. What does a lonely woman, with absolutely no one, do when she’s lost the only person who gave her life the least bit of meaning?  She goes into the silence of an internal space - as far away from reality as she can, and with questionable desire to return....

And the children in the apple-tree Not known, because not looked for But heard, half-heard, in the stillness … (T.S. Eliot, Four Quartets) PHILOMENA — Shame ravages. It eats away at you. It makes you collapse into yourself and live with secrets – seemingly too shameful to tell. Philomena Lee’s (Judi Dench) story is the story of shame. In Stephen Frears's film, Philomena, Philomena’s journey begins with shame until she comes full circle to where her shame began. Hers is the story of a hard won triumph over the forces that shamed her – a 1950’s Irish Catholic belief system capitalizing on shame and humiliation to...

NEBRASKA — What does a son do when he feels his dad doesn’t love him? Either silently withdraw or take the road trip of his life to just spend a little time together. Director Alexander Payne has done it brilliantly again. Nebraska isn’t the road trip we took in Sideways. It’s a father-son road trip, and a touchingly redemptive ride it is, from Billings, Montana to Omaha, Nebraska with a stop in the fictional Hawthorne along the way. This beautiful, character-driven film, with a virtuoso performance by Bruce Dern as Woody Grant and a touching Will Forte as his son, David, asks a tough...