Listen. It is 1941 in Bergen-Belson concentration camp, a non-extermination camp where many prisoners died nonetheless of starvation. Francine Christophe is 8 years old, bearing a large Star of David (Juif) on her chest, imprisoned there with her mother, the barracks head. A strong and reassuring mother, keeping chocolate for the moment her daughter needed it the most. Listen. As now-83-year-old Francine Christophe - holocaust survivor, writer, and poet - tells you how her mother and she and her piece of chocolate saved an emaciated woman giving birth in the camp. Not only that – how years later, she was given that chocolate back. Hers...

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...

Noah Baumbach and Greta Gerwig’s kooky and touching new film, Mistress America, gives us Brooke Cardenas (Greta Gerwig), a 30-year-old autodidact, full of life and ideas, but stuck. She can’t get her life off the ground. She needs help, but help makes her feel small: “There’s nothing I don’t know about myself. That’s why I can’t go to therapy. ”What do you do when you have to cover up your shame for not being able to figure things out for yourself? You either keep running from one thing to the next, or … how about a psychic? You can just drop in...

  Alert: Possible Spoilers How can someone do exactly to other people what’s been done to him? That’s the big psychological question in Ramin Bahrani’s new film, 99 Homes. How can Dennis Nash (Andrew Garfield) become right hand man to the very real estate developer (Michael Shannon) who callously uses the housing market collapse to repossess and evict him (and countless others) from his foreclosed home? In these men, we find two disparate answers to how someone becomes exactly what he starts out hating. As the film begins, there’s a bloody bathroom and dead body – a man who couldn’t face losing his home. To developer...

A good mother can make a bad situation better. I just read Valentina Valentini’s piece in Indie Wire, Mark Webber Wants Your Money – But He Can’t Tell You Why, about actor/director Mark Webber's Kick Starter Campaign. He’s raising money for a movie he’s making about his mother. It’s a secret, but he did give his mother’s name. So I googled Cheri Lynn Honkala and was blown away. Good mothers do a lot to help a child through all kinds of adversities. Children rely on a parent’s resilience, reassurance, optimism, and love. Homelessness and economic poverty are terribly difficult conditions to...

Spoiler Alert: Some Plot Details Revealed Cruelty comes in different forms. We can’t escape the obvious in BENT: the unimaginable inhumane cruelty of The Nazi Party towards Gays and Jews. Yet, we see more than the Nazi’s cruelty in this brilliantly acted, honest, heart wrenching, and inspiring play (written by Martin Sherman and directed by Moises Kaufman >now playing at the Mark Taper Forum ). We see other kinds of cruelty as well. Cruelty directed towards someone else when you’re scared to love. Cruelty aimed at yourself when you can’t accept who you are. BENT, set in 1934 Berlin where many were...

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...

Paula Hawkins’ New York Times bestselling novel, The Girl On The Train, gives us Rachel – a girl obsessed. There’s no question this novel is a mind bending murder mystery par excellence. But, for me as a psychoanalyst it poses a more interesting question. What’s behind Rachel’s obsession? Rachel Watson rides the train every day. She rides - as if she has a purpose. She used to have a life. Now she has nothing. She rides past her old neighborhood where the life she lost took place – the only happy life she ever had. She watches Jason and Jess; at...

That self-loathing voice can’t be allowed to take center stage. It makes you believe other people are thinking terrible thoughts about you too. You keep your distance. It’s a lonely place to be. David Foster Wallace's short story, The Depressed Person, shows he knew that struggle well. So does director James Ponsoldt's film about David Lipsky's road trip with him - The End Of The Tour. I left the theater incredibly sad, after witnessing David Foster Wallace’s (Jason Segel) steady stream of self-denigrating apologies. I know from my work as a psychoanalyst it doesn’t have to be that way. Self-loathing is what...