Reverend Tomas Ericsson is a man who cannot grieve. And, because he can’t, he struggles with both God and love. Tomas over and over coldly rejects his desperately loving former lover, Marta. Winter Light Ingmar Bergman 1963, slowly reveals the source of his loss of faith. Tomas loved his dead wife: “When she died, so did I.” This is a bitter man. Turned dead inside. Dead to his parishioners, his previous faith, the possibility of new love. Dead to a young congregant in despair who turns to him in terror for words of hope. All of this spells hopelessness and...

Shame can ruin a life. A mistake can force a woman to live in self-sacrifice. For Diane, the reasons why are hidden in the loaded question: “How is Brian?” This question haunts her through the entirety of Kent Jones’ character-driven film, Diane. Not only is Brian Diane’s alcoholic and drug-addicted son, but underneath her attempts to save him is the reason for her guilt. She never feels she can make up for what she did many years ago. Nothing lets her off the hook. She’s locked in a prison of voices muttering relentlessly in her mind. How does a woman...

We’ve all been intrigued with Stanley Kubrick’s Lolita since the classic film arrived on the scene in 1962. But, isn’t the burning question: Is there more to understand about Humbert and Lolita beyond, “he’s a pedophile and she’s a troubled 14-year-old seductress?” The answer is yes, there’s plenty. Believe it or not, both have pathological reactions to loss. Pathological is not a surprise, I’m sure. But, perhaps loss is. So, let’s look more deeply into the not so simple histories that have brought about Humbert and Lolita’s very disturbed longings and behavior. Making them unable to grieve. Professor Humbert’s Mother Loss Humbert...

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...

Tennessee Williams wrote: “This is a play about love in its purest terms.” Surprised? Don’t be. The heart needs a home. But, if a heart is tormented by unrealistic Guilt, it has a hard time opening up to the love that offers a place to nest. That’s The Night Of The Iguana’s Reverend Dr. Lawrence T. Shannon. A shut out and shut down Episcopalian minister who doesn’t know love from lust or misguided temptation from real desire. What’s his #1 problem? He’s confused about what is realistic to need. Shannon's father’s a clergyman and two grandfathers are Bishops. So he believes...

Lee Israel has talent; she just doesn’t believe she does. We can see it in Marielle Heller’s Can You Ever Forgive Me. In the creative way she impersonates the letters of great writers, adding her own writerly wit; but, hiding behind their names. (In fact, the NY Times called her book: Can You Ever Forgive Me: Memoirs Of A Literary Forger, “a sordid and pretty damned fabulous book.”) That is, after she came out of hiding. Yet, if Lee doesn’t hide; she’s sure all she’ll get is criticism; and she can’t stand that. The real culprit, though, is that horrid...

It’s frightening how quickly freedom can disappear. We have to watch out for those complicated forces, in the outside world and living inside us, that want to deceive us if we aren’t aware. Cabaret is a powerful and disturbing illustration, plus a startling reminder, of the various ways these dangers lurk. Over Labor Day weekend, I saw a remarkable performance of Cabaret at the Celebration Theater at The Lex in Hollywood. Director Michael Matthews’ version of this well known and loved musical crosses all conceivable boundaries; anything goes. And, then, it doesn’t. If you’ve seen Cabaret, you know the play takes place...

Jon Chu’s Crazy Rich Asians is about crazy wealth. But it’s really about so much more. It’s about the clashes between old money and new; between privilege and disadvantage; between American born Asians and those calling Asia home; between following passion and giving into duty. Mostly it's about a boyfriend's mother's envy. And, at the film’s center we find this conflict between a traditional Singaporean mother and her son’s Asian American girlfriend. At an even deeper level, Crazy Rich Asians is really about two different parts of that mother battling against each other. The Girlfriend Rachel Chu (Constance Wu) is the youngest...

  *Spoiler Alert: Don’t Read Until You’ve Seen This Film* The Wife slowly and disturbingly reveals many things about Joan Castleman (Glenn Close) and her marriage to 1992 Nobel Prize Winner, Joe Castleman (Jonathan Pryce). She’s lived a lie. She’s allowed it. She’s become merely “the wife.” But, when Joe asks her, as she finally gains courage to leave him after almost 40 years: “Why did you marry me,” she has no idea. Why Joan married him is a good question. But, the more important question is why she’d sell her soul for love? That can only be answered by looking at the...

Welcome, readers. Characters On the Couch and my blogging on film is back with Three Identical Strangers and a subject I'm passionate about: the lasting effects of separation trauma. I took an almost four-month hiatus to build out my new office at 435 N. Bedford Drive, Suite 406, Beverly Hills, CA 90210 – a lovely and peaceful new space for my much loved clinical work and writing. That wasn’t the only thing, though. Along with the demands of the office build out, I also needed time to write a chapter on Pedro Almodovar’s film, Broken Embraces, for an exciting new book. Pedro...